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It's a new day for flier's rights: We're human beings, not just cargo!

New Department of Transportation rules take effect today, and the gist is that when a flight is delayed on tarmac, passengers are no longer subject to inhumane treatment. Finally!

As we've reported before, the new rules have been a long time in the making, and only became a reality after several highly publicized incidents in which airline travelers were stuck on tarmacs for six, seven, nine hours -- sometimes having to endure the wait without food, water, or even operable bathrooms.

Here are the new stipulations that affect passengers, from the DOT's Fast Lane blog states:

Under the new rule, U.S. airlines operating domestic flights must allow passengers to deplane after a tarmac delay of three hours. The only exceptions allowed are for safety or security, or if air traffic control advises the pilot otherwise.

Carriers are also required to provide adequate food and drinking water within two hours of being delayed on the tarmac; they must also maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.

You'd think that mandating that an airline attend to its customers' basic needs -- and you don't get more basic than the ones above -- wouldn't be necessary, but here we are.

A DOT press release explains the rest of the new rules, including one that:

Prohibits the largest U.S. airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights

While we enthusiastically applaud the new requirements, one potential downside is that deplaning passengers due to a lengthy delay may lead to even bigger delays. But at least you'd be delayed in the terminal, not inside a cramped, stuffy plane.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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