Now that the tarmac delay rule is “working as planned” should the government shorten the leash?

That’s a question a lot of airline observers may be asking themselves after today’s DOT report (PDF) that there was just one tarmac delay exceeding three hours in August 2010.

And look at this chart (above). What point is reporting this data to the flying public when there’s no meaningful data to report?

The Transportation Department is doing a well-deserved victory lap on tarmac delays. In today’s news release, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood summed up his department’s reasons to celebrate:

These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane – with little or no increase in canceled flights.

Also, it shows that the hard work the airlines are putting into implementing the rule is paying off. With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned.


Now what?

Well, when I researched a story on tarmac delays a few weeks ago, Kevin Mitchell told me he saw no reason not to shorten the three-hour rule to two hours at some point. That’s an interesting idea.

Maybe that time is now.

At the very least, the government should start reporting two-hour tarmac delays in a meaningful way. The three-hour data is sort of irrelevant when there are only one or two flights a month that go over the limit.

Another area of interest: fines. If the rule is working as planned, shouldn’t the government be fining the airlines that go over the limit? Yet to the best of my knowledge, there have been no fines issued yet under the new three-hour rule.

What do you think? In a quick poll of more than 100 reader, most of you agree that two hours is better.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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