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

Will the new airport rule protect passengers or cause more headaches?

ByABC News
March 30, 2010, 8:07 AM

April 28, 2010 — -- Have you ever been the victim of an airline "crime"? Len Oxman believes he has. Kind of.

Oxman, an Orlando-area business owner, says his memorably miserable experience happened about a decade ago, when he and his fellow passengers were trapped on the tarmac at Newark for five hours on a weather-delayed Continental plane and could not leave.

"If I'm being taken somewhere against my will," he said, "that's kidnapping."

Maybe that's a little strong, but his complaint, and those of countless others who've been trapped on the tarmac, reached the ear of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who more or less said, "Okay, enough!"

And as a result, starting Thursday, airlines cannot keep passengers stuck on planes without going anywhere for longer than three hours.

You'd better believe some of the airlines immediately started screaming about this; JetBlue, Delta and others said, "What about JFK?" They insisted they'd need waivers from the rule since the main runway at Kennedy Airport in New York is closed for the next few months, and delays will be inevitable.

LaHood's response: Too bad. Then he told them to do a better job of rescheduling and/or rerouting flights. "Passengers on flights delayed on the tarmac have a right to know they will not be held aboard a plane indefinitely," he said.

Ah, but will the rule wind up victimizing passengers in other ways?

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The president of the Air Travelers Association has been quoted as saying, "The misery index for airline passengers is definitely going to go up." Huh? But…it will keep us from being trapped on planes, right?