FlyersRights was one of the chief proponents of the tarmac delay rule. In 2009, DOT passed the 3 hour tarmac delay rule (4 hours for international flights). At the 3 hour mark (after the door is closed for departures; landing for arrivals), the airline must return to the gate and allow passengers to exit. After two hours, the airline must offer water and food. At all times, the airline must provide working lavatories and appropriate medical care.The flight crew must also provide updates on the delay every 30 minutes.
There are exceptions to the tarmac delay rule for safety, health, and security reasons.
The DOT fines airlines for violations of the 3 Hour Rule. In January 2015, the DOT fined Southwest Airlines $1.6 Million for 16 violations of the tarmac delay rule.