Continental Chief Executive Calls Consumer Tarmac Rule Stupid
By Mike Mitchell
March 12, 2010 - Continental Airlines Chief Executive Jeff Smisek called DOTís new consumer protection Tarmac Rule "stupid.Ē Consumer advocate groups called on tougher regulations, as a result of Continentals involvement with passengers forced to sit out on the tarmac overnight.
On August 8, 2009,
a Continental Airlines Flight 2816 sat on the tarmac at
DOTís Aviation Enforcement Office sets precedent back on November 24, 2009, by issuing the first ever enforcement orders against an airline for stranding passengers for an unreasonable amount of time.
The Aviation Enforcement Office (AEO) fined Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines $100,000 for their roles in keeping passengers on board Continental Express flight 2816 overnight. Continental Airlines was required to provide a full refund to each passenger and also offer passengers additional compensation to materially acknowledge their discomfort. DOT also fined Mesaba Airlines $75,000. Mesaba provided ground handling for the flight.
One passenger stated "This was a sardine can, with a single row of seats
on one side of the plane and two rows of seats on the other. And they've
got about 50 people inside, including babies, for the whole night. It
was a nightmare.''
DOT reported that in 2007 and 2008 there was an average of 1,500 flights
a year, with 114,000 passengers, held on the tarmac for more than three
hours. As result of a national outcry from passengers demanding
something be done, to prevent the events that occurred on Centennial
Flight 2816 from ever taking place again, DOT came up with a new Tarmac
Rule that will go into effect in April 29, 2010.
The new Tarmac
The new Tarmac
required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for
passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac
and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical
attention. Under the new rule airlines will have to pay $27,500 for each
passenger stuck for more than three hours on the tarmac. Consumer
advocate groups who have worked hard to push for more passenger
protections welcomed this new bill.
A number of
airlines have indicated that they will cannel flights if they think
there will be any delays, such as bad weather conditions. Time will tell
whether airlines are just are just posturing or hoping for DOT to loosen
up on this consumer legislation. It is highly unlikely that airlines
will give up revenue. More likely passengers will spend their time
waiting inside the terminal for the weather to clear up. JetBlue and
Delta Airlines have asked for an exemption under the news rules. They
say their concerns are the construction and closure of the main runway
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