“Airline passengers have rights, and the
Department’s tarmac delay rules are meant to
prevent passengers from being stuck on an
aircraft on the ground for hours on end,” said
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“We have aggressively enforced, and will
continue to aggressively enforce, our tarmac
delay rule to ensure carriers have adequate
resources to minimize passengers’ exposure to
lengthy tarmac delays.”
Under the Department’s aviation consumer
protection rule finalized in 2009, airlines may
not allow tarmac delays longer than three hours
on domestic flights at
airports without giving passengers an
opportunity to leave the plane.
Exceptions are allowed only for safety,
security, and air traffic control-related
An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement
Office found that on January 2 into January 3,
2014, 16 Southwest flights experienced lengthy
tarmac delays at Midway in excess of three
hours. Southwest experienced a malfunctioning of
its crew scheduling system and an unexpected
shortage of staff, particularly the carrier’s
ramp-crew, which inhibited the carrier’s ability
to clear aircraft from Southwest’s gates in a
timely manner to accommodate arriving flights.
A severe winter weather event at Midway
contributed to the tarmac delays.