High number of strandings belies airlines' claims of improvement
NAPA, Calif., Aug. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More airline passengers sustained lengthy tarmac delays in June than in the four previous months combined, according to Federal Aviation Administration statistics.
The data, compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, indicates that passengers on 278 aircraft suffered through tarmac delays of 3 hours or more in June. Even that figure, however, fails to include international flights or those of many small regional carriers.
"These numbers belie the airlines' contention that, if they're only given time and flexibility to do so, they'll reduce tarmac delays voluntarily," said Kate Hanni, founder and Executive Director of FlyersRights.org, America's leading consumer organization representing airline passengers.
Noting that many of the tarmac strandings are blamed by the airlines on weather, Hanni joked, "God makes storms, but airlines are the ones who make passengers sit through storms on the tarmac -- they only think they're God."
The data came on the heels of reports this weekend of 47 passengers being sealed all night on the tarmac at the Rochester, Minnesota airport on what has been described as a "nightmare flight" (http://www.startribune.com/local/east/52798827.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUF).
The Senate Commerce Committee has unanimously approved the bipartisan Boxer-Snowe Airline Passengers Bill of Rights, which would give passengers the option to disembark the aircraft after 3 hours. The legislation is now awaiting action by the full Senate, but the House of Representatives has already passed a weaker counterpart measure which allows airlines to set their own policies for allowing passengers out of aircraft.
"It's a sad commentary that Congress has to require airlines to give their passengers the respect they deserve as human beings and paying customers, but lengthy tarmac delays on 278 flights in June and 3,000 flights since January of 2007 tell the real story," said Hanni. "Congress needs to pass the bipartisan Boxer-Snowe Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights."
Editors' Note: FAA statistics on tarmac delays are confusing and difficult to tabulate. A comprehensive summary includes delays on arriving and departing flights (http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/taxi_out_and_other_tarmac_times/taxi_out_times/html/over_3_hours_2009_06.html); cancelled and diverted flights (http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/taxi_out_and_other_tarmac_times/cancelled_and_diverted/2009_06/index.html), diverted flights (http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/taxi_out_and_other_tarmac_times/cancelled_and_diverted/2009_06/html/table_05.html and "multiple-gate departures" (defined as flights that return to the terminal but do not allow passengers to disembark) (http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/taxi_out_and_other_tarmac_times/cancelled_and_diverted/2009_06/html/table_10.html
FlyersRights.org is the largest airline passengers rights group with 26,000 members.
CONTACT: Mike Collins, +1-202-494-6105, firstname.lastname@example.org, for FlyersRights.org; or Kate Hanni of FlyersRights.org, +1-707-337-0328