The travel industry has been abuzz since the US Department of Transportation announced last December that new, hefty fines would be doled out when airlines left passengers trapped in planes on the tarmac for more than three hours. And, by hefty, they mean HEFTY. How does $27,500 per passenger sound? That’s upwards of $4 million on most flights. In all, it’s a good move to protect passenger’s rights. And, no one wants to repeat the 2007 debacle at JFK in 2007 where passengers on multiple planes ensured 6-hour stints on the tarmac. But, still, my personal reaction is a bit of a mixed bag.
THE GOOD: More convenient and reasonable resolutions to weather and system-wide air-traffic induced delays
THE BAD: The new rule is not scheduled to hit until April 29, 2010. By then, most of the winter snow and spring weather setbacks will have passed. So, most of us won’t experience the benefit until next Fall/Winter. (This is good for the airlines, as it gives them extra time to shore up their flight cancellation processes.)
THE WORSE: For people with elite airline status — those sitting in a comfie seat, with a good (e)book in hand, and the need for a nice nap — the inconvenience might not be that bad. And, the new process will make the days of apologetic emails with e-certificates for several hundred dollars fewer and further between.
THE UGLY: To avoid multimillion dollar fines, the airlines will be much more willing to cancel flights. This means a lot more long lines (in person or over the phone) and possibly days of drama trying to find a new itinerary. So, the savings of a few hours inconvenience on one end, might result in a more painful experience later.
Well, it all remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the best. In the mean time, we all should acquaint yourself with the rules and your rights as a passenger. Here are a few links to get you started.