New Tarmac Rule Limits Time Stuck on Airplanes: Will it Work?

But what if the three hour rule means you're stuck in the airport overnight? Will the airline pick up your food and hotel bill? Probably not -- not if the delay is weather-related, since the airlines get a pass in such situations ("force majeure" is the standard explanation, which is from the French for "superior force," and it's a standard contractual clause meaning something beyond one's control).

Will New Government Rules Cause More Airline Delays, Cancelations?

Well then, you'll just have to get a flight out the next day. Oh, wait a minute; as we all know by now, the airlines have been cutting capacity for more than a year, whittling away the number of seats to try to get all of them filled. Which means, if your flight is cancelled, how are you going to find room on "the next flight out"?

The perfect example of just such a mess: the recent shutdown of European airspace because of ash from that volcano in Iceland, and carriers' continuing difficulties in getting all those stranded passengers home.

So how is this three hour rule going to play out? Will it be a "careful-what-you-wish-for" scenario, which simply makes a bad situation worse? Or freedom from needless captivity?

Len Oxman seems to think it'll help. His only complaint: "Three hours is too long. Why not just two?"

I guess some people are never satisfied. Next thing you know, he'll be asking why airlines still lose checked bags, even though we have to pay for them.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations including ABC News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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