From bankruptcies to terrorist attacks, air travelers have seen it all in the last decade or so. But I can’t think of a week that’s been jam-packed with so much bad news for airline passengers since 2001. Maybe you can, but stick with me for a moment while I review the list.
Anyone who thinks tarmac delays are dead was in for a little shock this week. Hundreds of flights were delayed in a series of powerful blizzards, and a few sat between the runway and the terminal for hours, waiting for the weather to clear.
The Transportation Department, which hasn’t fined a single airline for a tarmac delay since instituting its three-hour rule last spring, will almost certainly have to take some enforcement action this time. And, of course, there’s a big loophole: International flights remain exempt from the turnback rule.
More than two dozen international flights waited more than three hours from Monday to Wednesday to get to an open gate in New York, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The long-awaited sequel to this summer’s controversial tarmac delay study has just been released. In it, aviation analysts Darryl Jenkins and Joshua Marks claim 384,000 more passengers were stranded by cancellations last summer, and an additional 49,600 air travelers experienced gate returns and delays. It calls on the Transportation Department to clarify its three-hour turnback rule — a rule the DOT insists is a resounding success.
I asked Jenkins about the study and its conclusions this morning. Here’s our interview.
You’ve analyzed flight cancellations based on last summer’s data. What’s the bottom line for passengers?