Tarmac delays task force spurs dissent

kate2sm.jpgMan, this woman is always angry. She’s Kate Hanni, most vocal of the advocates of a passenger bill of rights. Hanni, of the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, was the sole dissenting vote among 34 to the DOT’s Tarmac Task Force, as the Department called the airport/airline/labor/passenger group that it set up to give guidance on dealing with extended delays during bad weather or mechanical failures.

In the end after lengthy meetings, the task force decide to push a voluntary plan that stresses frequent communications with passengers rather than such provisions as a mandatory return to the gate to allow passengers to deplane. The Task Force was created in December 2007 after such well-publicized events as a December 2006 eight-hour delay of an American Airlines plane at the Austin airport or the massive JetBlue ‘meltdown’ during a February 2007 ice storm at New York’s JFK airport. Hanni, who happened to take part in the Austin disaster, promptly denounced the report as “an insult to airline passengers.”


She’s angry because it did not require the airlines to set a time limit for sitting on the runway waiting to take off. And, she says, the Task Force could at least ask the FAA to limit the amount of time it lets planes sit. leowater.JPGFellow Task Force member Leo Schefer of the Washington Airports Task Force makes some of the same points in a rather less outraged manner. He says, in signing on to the report with


a few dissenting


comments, “Nowhere does the report define an ‘extended tarmac delay,’ nor does it require each airport team to provide a definition for its own location. How can one manage what one cannot measure? And the report recommends no limit on the time a passenger can be confined in a delayed aircraft.” But the DOT notes that it now requires detailed reporting on lengthy runway delays and still has rulemaking pending that would set regulations on these matters. And there is still an airline passenger bill of rights sitting in Congress.

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