Study Done By Airline Consultants Skews Data To Favor Airlines


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Study Done By Airline Consultants Skews Data To Favor Airlines

By Bill Goldston

July 21, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Transportation responded to a study released on Tuesday by a pair of aviation consultants, purporting to show that the DOT’s rule establishing time-limits on tarmac delays hurts, rather than helps, consumers.

The study, conducted by two business consultants for aviation companies, offers a misleading and premature assessment of the impact of the new passenger protections. 

The study which was conducted by industry consultants Darryl Jenkins of The Airline Zone and Joshua Marks of Marks Aviation concluded that the new rule, Airline Passenger Bill of Rights the “Tarmac Rule” would create more problems than it would solve.


The report suggests that the rule would spare 110,000 passengers per year an average of 3.26 hours in (taxi-out) tarmac delays, however, approximately 400,000 flyers would face even greater disruption due to increased flight cancellations. “We’re on pace to have 5,000 to 6,000 more flights canceled per year because of the rule,” says Marks. “That translates into a 4:1 ratio against the impact of tarmac delays.”

The new rule, Airline Passenger Bill of Rights the “Tarmac 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.

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 study released on Tuesday by The Airline Zone and Marks Aviation, hired as consultants for the airlines is based on a one month of airline on-time data for the month of May 2010, which is far too narrow to yield defensible conclusions about future airline trends. Further, the data reported in May 2010, does not support the industry consultants’ claims about rising numbers of airline cancellations.

While there was a slight increase in airline cancellations in May 2010, compared with May 2009, an analysis of May cancellations over the last 15 years shows that cancellations in May 2010, were below average. In fact, the rate of airline cancellations in May 2010, was below the average rate for all 15 previous Mays with comparable data: 1.24% in May 2010, compared to the average of 1.51%.

“Airlines know the rules and they know they have to take passenger protections into account when making scheduling and operational decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The Department of Transportation is committed to protecting the rights of airline passengers – starting with firm limits on tarmac delays – and no one should be misled by this unreliable study.”

The same May 2010 data show many cases in which airlines did take the appropriate action to avoid lengthy tarmac delays without canceling flights. In May 2010, there were 86 incidents in which airlines took action to ensure passengers were not stuck on the tarmac for more than 3 hours and still delivered them to their scheduled destination. In May 2009, there were only 22 such incidents.

On August 8, 2009, a Continental Airlines Flight 2816 sat on the tarmac at Rochester International Airport overnight with 47 passengers. The flight was operated by ExpressJet Airlines. Passengers were not allowed to return back to the gate, instead the small airplane just sat. Complete with crying babies and the aroma of over used toilets. Continental Chief Executive Calls Consumer Tarmac Rule Stupid

Also See  

- United Flight 270 Passengers Stranded On Tarmac Nearly Nine Hours
- Virgin Atlantic Passengers Sit On Tarmac 4 Hours In 100 Degrees
- DOT Denies Requests for Waiver of Tarmac Delay Rule
- Study by The Airline Zone and Marks Aviation


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