Bunch of traffic at New York's JFK Airport.

Bunch of traffic at New York's JFK Airport.

Be careful what you ask for

I am sure you have heard on the news about passengers being stuck in planes for hours and hours with little food and water. Is that a fun experience? Heck no.

When I was a teenager I was stuck on the tarmac for over five hours and it was not a pleasant experience. However, after the five hours I got to fly home to my family. My flight was from Seattle, WA to Reno, NV and we had to be diverted to San Jose, CA due to poor weather. With the new rules going into affect in two days, I could have been stuck at an unfamiliar airport, with no family and no real money.

Over the past few years, quite a few airlines have made the news for leaving passengers stuck on the runway for hours; passengers got angry. Some passengers got REALLY angry. They wanted the government to step in and make sure no other passenger had to be stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time again.

To me, being stuck on the plane was not a fun experience, but it is life, it happens. No matter the form of transportation I would have used, the end result would have been the same — delayed due to the weather.

The new rules, starting April 29th, state that an airline will have to allow passengers to disembark if they have been sitting on the tarmac for three hours, unless doing so would jeopardize safety. The new rule sounds like a pretty good deal for passengers in theory, but in reality, I think it will cause a lot more frustration, loss of money and even more angry passengers.

With the new rules, an airline can be charge up to $27,500.00 per passenger that is left on an airplane for more than three hours. That is a lot of money. If an airline sees that a flight might be delayed for three hours, instead of waiting, they might just cancel the flight. This doesn’t mean that the plane will just sit around waiting. That plane needs to be at the next destination. It might have to fly empty to pick up the next set of passengers. If it doesn’t, routes all over will be delayed and even more passengers will be upset and more revenue will be lost.

That leaves the question: Would you rather be stuck on a plane for four hours and reach your destination? Or would you rather be stuck in a city, sleeping in the airport for much longer…possibly days?

What’s worse is New York’s JFK airport is already known for their long delays. Right now their main runway is closed for some improvements. Because of this, some airlines have asked for an exception from the three hour rule, but they were denied. Remind me not to fly out of JFK for the next few weeks!

Again, this is another time where the government should not be interfering with the airlines. Already airlines get a bad rap if they leave passengers in the airplane for hours. The mainstream media loves to bash them.

The airline business is extremely complicated and that is when things go right. Throw in bad weather, aircraft issues, scheduling problems, huge pressure for the lowest prices, and security and you have a business just waiting for things to go wrong.

For me, I would rather be stuck on an airplane going no where for a few hours, than not being able to reach my destination. I can easily survive a few hours without food and water and waiting inside an airplane is a heck of a lot better than trying to take a bus.

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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but what about when the bathrooms overfill? Do they send out a truck to take care of that? What if you end up sitting on the tarmac for hours and hours, and then decide to cancel the flight, anyway? Or they can’t fly because the flight crew is over their allowed hours? I think we should be patient and see how it works. Maybe the airlines will have to adjust. After all, passengers have had to make some shifts in the past few years in order to continue to fly, why shouldn’t the airlines?

Hey Erica!

You bring up some good points. I have never understood why the restrooms get full. I mean if a flight is supposed to take five hours, and it is sitting on the tarmac for three, how does it fill? Do passengers use the restroom more when on the ground?

A lot of the time, the flight crew want to be ready to take off at a moments notice. Sometimes there is only a small window of time to do so. If all the passengers are in the terminal, it will take time to get them all on-board, ready to go.

I agree, we will have to wait to see if this will work. From what I have seen, you can’t make everyone happy. I am sure there will be a lot of angry passengers about these new rules as well.



This new legislation is just another attempt by our government to regain control of another industry which was de-regulated in 1978. The fact is that delays are not induced on one-self and in most every case are beyond any one airline’s control. But, as a business the simple solution is to cancel the flight and accept the costs of ferrying the aircraft to it’s intended destination.

However, I could see the proverbial congressional wheel’s spinning and Sen. Schumer most likely has another scheme up his sleeves to counteract airlines who do cancel their flights. And, it may go like this Senate Bill 00000:

[In the event an airline chooses not to operate the flight in order to avoid being penalized $27,5000/passenger left on board the aircraft, then the airline company will be assessed a penalty equal to double the original fine and it becomes due prior to any shareholder equity being distributed.]

And if airlines get a HUGE fine, where do you think that money will come from? They will raise fares or fees. Then passengers will complain about those :).

It is a lose-lose for airlines.



Your dead on David and I’ve been in this business long enough to know the unintended consequences that arise when Congress gets involved in over-reaching. There’s a favorite line I like to use, Everybody wants to go to heaven but, nobody wants to die. The savvy consumer wants all the benefits of lower fares, comfortable seats, meals, in-flight entertainment, unlimited baggage checked/carry-on, etc. but no-one is willing to pay the price necessary for these amenities.

As I said to a customer some years ago after a complaint about meal service, Ms. McGillicutty with all due respect our service is to provide you the most cost efficient method to travel from point A to B. If you wish to enjoy a fine cuisine I would recommend you dine at XYZ restaurant in XYZ city when you arrive there.

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