April 20, 2010
Honorable Ray LaHood
Secretary of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Re: Docket No. DOT-OST-2007-0022
Comments on Carriers’ Temporary Exemption Requests from DOT’s Tarmac
Delay Rules for JFK, EWR, LGA and PHL Operations
— No Waiver of “3-Hour Rule” When Airlines Overschedule Flights
Dear Mr. Secretary:
FlyersRights.org on April 9 filed its opposition to the pending requests by five airlines for various or blanket exemptions from the “three-hour passenger-option-to-deplane” rule (“3-hour rule”) included in your “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” regulation (December 30, 2009) at up to four major Northeast airports (listed in the caption) during the months the Bay Runway at the John F. Kennedy International Airport will be closed for reconstruction.
In our filing we feared that, if you granted any relief from the “3-hour rule” now for this temporary runway closing, other airlines would want similar relief in the future whenever the runway capacity of any other airport was temporarily reduced for reconstruction or otherwise. As if on cue, United Air Lines, Inc., (“United”) has since boldly requested that you now grant advance blanket relief from enforcement of the 3-hour rule for all future “temporary airfield operational closures.”
Mr. Secretary, the airline filings in response to your March 30 request for comments on these exemption requests make evident that they all want to be freed of your Department’s possible enforcement of the 3-hour rule whenever and wherever they have overscheduled operations beyond the normal or temporarily-reduced capacity of any airport, and want just to have the regulation applied (if then!) to their treatment of airline passengers whenever occasional irregular operations (e.g., extremely bad weather) occur.
— Deny All Exemption Requests Resulting from Voluntary “Overscheduling” of Airline Flights
As we indicated in our prior filing, FlyersRights.org believes that you should deny all the pending exemption requests, as well as United’s recent request for blanket exemptions now for future tarmac delays whenever runway capacity is inadequate. The FAA Administrator must control overscheduling of airline operations at congested airports so that waivers of any violations of the 3-hour rule because of overscheduling are mooted. Our members will strenuously oppose DOT’s (or FAA Air Traffic Control’s) giving waivers from the three-hour rule, or DOT’s choosing not to bring enforcement action, whenever the cause of the excessive tarmac delay is overscheduled airline operations.
The FAA Administrator already has power to control overscheduling. Airline passengers shouldn’t have to be imprisoned on airport taxiways for more than three hours because the FAA Administrator chooses not to fully exercise his authority.
— Support “FAA Control of Airline Overscheduling” Provision in FAA Reauthorization Bill
In this regard, FlyersRights.Org is urging the conferees on the FAA Reauthorization Bill to accept the language of section 423 of the House-passed legislation to reinforce the FAA Administrator’s obligation to control the flow of airline aircraft on airport tarmacs to minimize the chances of 3-hour delays for passengers. Enactment and implementation of this provision would eliminate future airline requests, as here, for blanket exemptions from compliance with the 3-hour rule.
Now, when the number of scheduled airline flights is reduced, is a good time for the FAA Administrator to decide to eliminate airline overscheduling during peak hours at U.S. airports.
We urge the Obama Administration similarly to support this clarifying legislative provision with the House-Senate conferees.
Thank you for considering our views.
Kate Hanni, Executive Director
159 Silverado Springs Drive
Napa, CA 94558
cc: Honorable J. Randolph Babbitt
Docket No. DOT-OST-2007-0022
Honorable James L. Oberstar
Honorable John L. Mica
Honorable John P. (Jay) Rockefeller IV
Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison