No Tarmac Delays Longer Than Three Hours In October 2010


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No Tarmac Delays Longer Than Three Hours In October 2010

Mike Mitchell

December 8, 2010 - The nation’s largest airlines reported no flights in October with tarmac delays of more than three hours, down from 11 flights in October 2009, with a slight decrease in the rate of canceled flights, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).   

This is the first month there were no tarmac delays of more than three hours by the reporting carriers since the Department began collecting more comprehensive tarmac delay data in October 2008. 

Data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) showed there have been only 12 total tarmac delays of more than three hours reported from May through October this year by the 18 airlines that file on-time performance data with DOT, compared to 546 during the same five-month period of 2009.

October was the sixth full month of data since the new aviation consumer rule went into effect on April 29. BTS is a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). The largest carriers canceled 0.97 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in October, down from the 0.99 percent cancellation rate of October 2009.  They posted a 0.90 percent cancellation rate in September 2010.

The number of canceled flights with tarmac delays of more than two hours increased only slightly this year, from 224 between May and October 2009 to 230 between May and October 2010. There were five canceled flights with tarmac delays of more than two hours in October 2010, slightly up from the total of four in October 2009.

“October was the first month that there were no tarmac delays lasting longer than three hours since our rule was adopted. We appreciate the effort that the airlines are putting into making this new rule work effectively for the benefit of their passengers,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

The new tarmac delay rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. The Department will investigate tarmac delays that exceed this limit.


This rule was adopted in response to a series of incidents in which passengers were stranded on the ground aboard aircraft for lengthy periods and also in response to the high incidence of flight delays and other consumer problems. In one of the most recent tarmac delay incidents, the Department fined Continental Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Mesaba Airlines a total of $175,000 for their roles in a nearly six-hour ground delay at Rochester, MN.


The monthly report also includes data on on-time performance, chronically delayed flights, flight cancellations and the causes of flight delays filed with the Department by the reporting carriers.   

In addition, it has information on reports of mishandled baggage filed by consumers with the carriers, and consumer service, disability and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.  This report also includes reports of incidents involving pets traveling by air, as required to be filed by U.S. carriers.

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