April 27, 2013 | Kendall Creighton ACTION ALERT: DOT CONSIDERS SUSPENDING TARMAC DELAY RULES STOP THE FAA FURLOUGHS Wednesday, April 24, 2013 Just when you think things can’t get worse with delays and cancellations from the FAA furloughs, now there’s this. The DOT is considering lifting the FlyersRights rule that says airplanes can’t remain on the tarmac for a prolonged period of time before allowing passengers to deplane, according to a DOT release. FlyersRights.org is strongly opposed to any suspension of the 3 hour rule which has successfully reduced lengthy tarmac confinements from victimizing 150,000 to 250,000 passengers per year to 5,000 per year since 2010 with no significant increases in cancellations or other operating problems. Under our hard-fought tarmac-delay rules, carriers must provide food and water when a tarmac delay exceeds three hours for domestic fights or four hours for international flights. Two airline associations, Airlines For America and the Regional Airline Association, have requested a waiver to our rule for at least 90 days or until the FAA furlough ends, arguing that the delays might make it difficult to comply with the rule, which comes with penalties of fines. The DOT rule already has flexible provisions for air traffic control, safety, or security imposed delays and the DOT has discretion in whether to impose fines as well as the fine amounts. Paul Hudson, FlyersRights.org president, noted that the “DOT has not imposed fines in 90% of 3 hour rule violation cases and has never imposed the large fines authorized of $27,500 per passenger.” DOT is asking for public comment till April 26. Stop the Air Traffic Controller Furloughs Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org called on DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta explain to the public why it did not designate FAA air traffic controllers (ATC) as essential federal employees making them exempt from the sequestration and why it has not followed the principle of “graceful degradation” instead of across-the-board cuts at choke points like Chicago and New York City, which could cause massive nationwide flight delays. FlyersRights.org also supports DOT in requiring a waiver of change fees and allowing passengers to fly on another airline with vacant seats when their flight is seriously delayed or cancelled. As to what airline passengers can do in this unprecedented situation, in the short term we advise passengers to; Check the FAA web site at www.fly.faa.gov for real time delay information by airport as well as their airline before they travel. Report any delays over 2 hours, especially tarmac confinements to the FlyersRights hotline 1-877-FLYERS6 (877-359-3776) with airport name, airline, flight number and time of delay and reason given and circumstances and/or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will enable FlyersRights.org to build a database to advocate for a restoration of normal air traffic control services. Contacting your Congressional representatives and the White House, as well as the DOT airline consumer complaint hotline should not be under estimated in importance. Only when Congress and the White House feel public pressure, will finger pointing and band-aid reactions give way to sensible budget solutions for the federal government, which includes funding of air traffic control services that are clearly essential for air travelers and the functioning of the US economy. “While employees are being furloughed across the federal government, the aviation system is unusually visible,” said Hudson, “The federal government does not supply direct services to the American public in most areas – this is one that they do.” Members of Congress are “playing chicken” over the budget, amounting to “a direct shot to the throat of the economy as well as to air travelers directly.” FlyersRights.org founder Kate Hanni and current president, Paul Hudson (pictured), have been the group’s vocal advocates for passenger’s rights on airliners, and it was their efforts that eventually led to DOT rules that impose stiff fines against domestic airlines that allow planes to sit on the ground for more than three hours without offering passengers an opportunity to deplane.