Delayed US Domestic Flights To Be Fined

Days of terror and nights of nightmare are about to end in airport tarmacs. The federal government has issued a new set of rules regarding keeping passengers inside a grounded US airplane bound for domestic flights. A fine of as much as $27,500 per passenger awaits any violators.

The announcement came out Monday, December 21, from the US Department of Transportation. Secretary Ray Lahood said that rules would force airlines to “live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly.”

Around 612 airplanes were delayed for more than three hours in the tarmac during the first six months of 2009. An incident last August helped trigger the rules to be set. A Continental Airline and ExpressJet Holdings Inc. flight was delayed for more than six hours in Rochester, Minnesota after the ground crew of Mesaba Airlines refused to help the stranded flight. Mesaba was fined with $75,000 while the Continetal and ExpressJet were fined $50,000 each.

The new rules taking effect April 2010 consist of the following:

* Allow passengers to return to the terminal if they have been stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours. The only exceptions are if safety or security reasons prohibit the plane from returning to the gate or if air traffic controllers advise against it.

* Provide food and water and access to a working bathroom after a plane has been delayed for more than two hours.

* Provide medical attention for passengers on delayed flights as needed.

* Display flight delay information on their websites.

* Designate an airline employee to monitor flight delays and cancellations, respond to complaints and tell passengers where to file complaints.

* Adopt plans to address flight delays and audit their own compliance with those plans.

* Not retroactively change their contracts to negatively affect customers who have already purchased tickets.

* Not schedule chronically delayed flights.