Three-hour maximum limit for tarmac strandings says DOT

Legal news for governmental attorneys. New regulations order airlines to disembark stranded passengers after three hours.

Department of Transportation imposed new regulations requiring that airplane passengers be disembarked after a three-hours on the tarmac.

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) http://www.dot.gov/ and the Obama Administration have imposed new regulations which order airlines to disembark passengers who have been stuck on a stranded airplane on the tarmac for more the three hours. The new regulations, which were announced on Monday, December 21, 2009, will come into effect in 120 days, as reported by MSNBC.

According to the new regulations, all airlines that are operating flights within the United States can only keep passengers aboard the aircraft for three hours before they are required to let them off the delayed plane. There are exemptions in the new regulations, such as for safety, security, or if air traffic control alerts the pilot that if they return the plane to the gate it would disrupt airport operations. But all airlines that meet one of the exemptions are required to supply food and water to all passengers aboard the delayed flight, which also includes operable lavatories and medical attention if needed. All U.S. airlines that are operating international flights arriving and departing in the U.S. must state their own time constraints for deplaning passengers in advance. Foreign airlines do not fall under the new regulations.

Under the new regulations, which have been called the “passenger bill of rights”, it is stated that any airlines that violate the guidelines will be fined $27,500 per passenger for each violation of the three-hour restriction. In addition, airlines are prohibited from scheduling chronically delayed flights; and if airlines do not adhere to the regulations, they could face governmental reprehension for using unfair and/or deceptive trade practices. Reportedly, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for over three hours with passengers on board from January 2009 to June 2009. The new regulations were imposed to keep from having another occurrence like the August 8, 2009 Continental Express Flight 2816. The flight was diverted to Rochester from their Minneapolis destination due to thunderstorms; the 47 passengers were held on board for eight hours with smelly bathrooms, and crying babies inside a cramped plane.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for governmental lawyers.

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