Startling news about severe tarmac delays

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The Feds have counted up how many times airplanes have been stranded on the tarmacs of U.S. airports because of flight delays. The numbers ain't pretty.

In June alone, 462 flights taxied out and were stuck on tarmacs for three or more hours, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That was roughly 6 percent of flights. (Update: When I posted this 2 hours ago, I wrote 16 percent. Whoops!)

And yesterday the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation issued this report about stranded flights (Warning: Link will open as an Adobe PDF).

The report found that many airlines lack system-wide policies about how to handle these delays, even though they happen hundreds of times a month.

Here's the money quotes from the report:

Of domestic flights arriving late in 2006, the average delay was a record-breaking 54 minutes....Based on the first 7 months of data, it is clear that 2007 could be even worse.

Update 9/27: Editor Erik Torkells calls for a 3-hour rule.

Elsewhere: Former airline analyst Jared Blank calls for a passenger revolt:

It's up to passengers stuck on the runway for hours to invoke their right to habeas corpus - either give me a legitimate reason why I'm stuck here, or let me off this plane. Ring the flight attendant button. Ask questions. Call the airline's headquarters and ask to speak to flight operations (they won't put you through, but they'll put you through to someone...and you'll make your point.) It's enough already. As I've said before: the fact that these companies think that keeping you in a cramped area (31" pitch, my ass) with screaming babies with no idea when you're leaving and no access to food is an acceptable way (let alone legally acceptable way) of treating people is the biggest issue. Enough is enough.

What do you think? Should the airlines be required by law to allow passengers to get off of a plane after a certain number of hours on the runway? Feel free to sound off below.


Video shot by a passenger of a 7-hour tarmac delay.

Our readers tell off the airlines.

A Southwest pilot blogs about long waits on the tarmac.

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