Once stuck on the plane and waiting for a gate or to take-off, all passengers are at the mercy of the flight crew and luck. The U.S. Department of Transportation has declared some passenger rights for tarmac delays (DOT 199-09):
The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable.
|In a 2007 photo stranded passengers aboard a Jet Blue Flight walk around |
the cabin while waiting hours to take off from New York's Kennedy Airport.
(image: Associated Press)
Carriers are 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.
The rule also:
• Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;
• Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
• Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;
• Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
• Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.
BIG NOTE: Read the above carefully again. It specially mentions only 'U.S. airlines'. There is current consideration by the DOT of imposing similar rules for foreign carriers.