What could possibly go wrong on a 30 minute flight?
In a throwback to the bad old days pre-2007, passengers were stranded for nine hours aboard an American Airlines flight grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Friday.
Yet, according to the airline, the nine-hour delay did not violate the Department of Transportation’s three-hour limit because the plane was not actually held on the tarmac.
FlyersRights, the pre-eminent airline passenger rights organization, is appalled about AA circumventing our 3-Hour Tarmac Rule.
We are aware that the Department of Transportation, who published the rule to protect the flying public from extremely long tarmac delays, left a loophole that is now harming consumers who fly on commercial airlines in the United states.
That loophole is that ‘Gate Time’, which is not included in ‘Tarmac Time’ for purposes of following the rule. Consumers do not know the difference.
If they are not given the opportunity to deplane after 3 hours, any time stuck in a plane whether it’s at the gate or pushed back in the penalty box should be considered Tarmac Time.
According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) the chances of blood clots doubles when passengers are seated more than 3 hours. Being confined for 9 hours with passengers being told to stay in their seats often with seat belts fastened was a common practice by airlines causing a health danger before enactment of the 3-Hour Rule.
The DOT and Congress through the GAO needs an expedited investigation not only of this flight, but more generally:
-Why American Airlines (AA) apparently failed to have adequate de-icing facilities at its main hub in Dallas, known for ice storms in winter,
-Whether AA has been claiming this ‘at-the-gate’ loophole to avoid fines for holding passengers over 3 hours on other flights,
-Why AA has been allowed to redefined ‘Acts of God’ in its contract of carriage to include anything and everything along with matters within its control so it can avoid giving vouchers for hotels and meals to stranded passengers,
-Whether AA intentionally failed to bring in more personnel and equipment to minimize expenses and virtually shut down its customer service phone lines during even the mildest storms this winter (listen here to AA’s ‘help line’ customer service
) causing passengers to be stranded for up to 3 or 4 days,
-Whether AA flight crew threatened and intimidated passengers on this flight with no refunds, no baggage, no re boarding if they exercised their right to deplane,
-Whether AA flight crew knew they were going to time-out and cause further delay but hid this and otherwise provided passengers with misinformation of imminent departure to hold them on the tarmac, minimize airline liability to passengers and maximize their compensation.
Kate Hanni, founder-emeritus of FlyersRights and largely responsible for the tarmac delay rules was stuck on an AA flight for nine hours in 2006 and not given the opportunity to deplane.
She reported, “After four hours, conditions were so hellish that people were revolting after listening to screaming babies, toilets overflowing, no food or water, no ability to get off the plane.
The disintegrating set of conditions worsened until people began to threaten the pilot that they would take over the plane were he not to pull in to a gate, with or without permission from AA’s management.”
AA Flight Delayed 9 Hours
“The tarmac delay rules were meant to prevent this type of behavior by commercial carriers in the US. Clearly those rules have loopholes that must be closed to protect the flying public.” Hanni said.
However, American Airline spokesperson Matt Miller insisted, ” The period of time that the jet was delayed on the tarmac waiting did not exceed three hours. Because the plane was not held on the tarmac, the delays did not violate the three-hour limit set by the Department of Transportation.”
Miller also said, “Passengers were allowed to exit, remaining in the gate area while crews also dealt with an air conditioning issue on board. Some passengers opted to stay on the jet.”
AA’s statement of events is different from eyewitness testimony of a passenger on-board, Brandon Sullivan, who spoke to FlyersRights.
He said, “O riginally we were told we could not re-board if we got off, but eventually had a 10-15 min period we could leave to get food, but many stayed on, though, fearing plane would leave without them.”
“They limited (deplaning) to 3-5 people at a time for only about 30 mins and we were very rushed – to only go to food across from gate,” Sullivan said.
FlyersRights asked Sullivan if the captain told passengers that if they deplaned they could not get back on.
Sullivan replied, “For the first 3-4 hrs yes. Then let 3-5 at a time go, but he warned the plane could go.”
Others echoed this type of coersion; (The captain will announce), “You can get off the plane but you won’t get your luggage or a refund.” “The plane will be ready in one hour”. Then one hour later… “We had an issue but it has been solved it should only be one hour.” “We found another issue but it will only be about 1 more hour.” “You can get off but it will be solved shortly”…..and on and on and on. Been there, said one commenter on the DailyMail.
Another question was, if the weather was so extreme at DFW, then why were Delta and United still flying in and out?