The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has unveiled a new regulation proposal that would change how tarmac delays are handled.
According to Travel Weekly, the intention of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is to reduce the number of tarmac delays that are subject to enforcement and maintain essential consumer protections.
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The Federal Aviation Administration has defined an extended tarmac delay as more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights since 2016, and the new rules proposal would go a step farther.
The tarmac delay clock currently starts for flights once the aircraft door is closed, but the proposed rule would be more lenient, with airlines being able to delay the countdown if they can prove passengers had the opportunity to deplane even when the door was closed.
“We commend the Department of Transportation for proposing an improvement to its tarmac delay rule as required by the statutory requirement in the 2016 FAA Extension Act,” Airlines for America communications director Katherine Estep said in a statement.
In addition, planes stuck on airport property not controlled by the carrier will be able to request the clock be temporarily stopped until it can return to a disembarkation point. This change will ensure airlines are not punished for “delays attributed to third parties and beyond the carriers’ control.”
On the other hand, planes stuck in areas that are under the control of an airline will be considered delayed until the aircraft begins maneuvering back to the gate. While carriers have voiced their support of the new proposals, others are concerned airlines will have too much flexibility to avoid penalties for lengthy delays.
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