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Old July 15th, 2009, 04:39 AM   #101
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Senators back limit on tarmac strandings, accelerating air traffic control modernization
14 July 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Airline passengers could be stranded on tarmacs no longer than three hours under legislation introduced Tuesday in the Senate.

The protection for stranded passengers is part of larger bill that provides a blueprint for Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next two years, including an acceleration of the agency's timetable for modernizing the nation's air traffic control system.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate's commerce committee, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the aviation subcommittee.

Congress has been trying unsuccessfully for more than two years to reauthorize FAA programs and has had to pass temporary funding extensions.

The tarmac provision would require planes delayed more than three hours to return to a gate to give passengers the opportunity to get off. The proposal has been championed by passenger rights advocates but opposed by the airline industry and airports.

"A hard and fast inflexible timeframe for returning to the gate will have unintended consequences for customers, including the likelihood of more cancellations and inconvenience," said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

"We believe that we have made great progress in reducing lengthy tarmac delays and improving service while on board as reflected in Transportation Department statistics," Castelveter said.

But passenger rights advocate Kate Hanni called the provision "extremely positive for airline passengers."

The bill would also require airlines to provide passengers with food, potable water, comfortable cabin temperature and ventilation, and adequate restrooms while a plane is delayed on the ground, Hanni said.

The nearly $35 billion bill would require the FAA to speed up its plans to switch from a radar-based air traffic control system to a system based on GPS technology. The new system is expected to increase the number of planes that can safely take off and land at airports and allow controllers to track planes in areas where there is no radar coverage.

The bill requires FAA to have the system in operation at the nation's 35 largest airports by 2014 and the rest of the country by 2018. FAA's current plan puts full modernization more than a decade off.

FAA inspections of foreign repair stations that perform maintenance on U.S. planes would be increased from once a year to twice a year under the bill. A similar provision is included in a version of the bill that passed the House in May.

A report last year by the Transportation Department's inspector general said nine big U.S. airlines are farming out aircraft maintenance at twice the rate of four years earlier and now hire outside contractors for more than 70 percent of major work. While most of the outsourced work is still done in the U.S., often at nonunion repair shops, more than one-quarter of the repairs are done overseas.

The European Commission has threatened to pull out of an aviation safety deal over the requirement. A U.S.-European Union agreement says each will have comparable safety requirements and inspection systems.

Another provision would increase funding for a program that underwrites the cost of air service to small airports in communities where there would otherwise be no commercial air service by $48 million, for a total of $175 million. That is the same size increase President Barack Obama called for in his budget proposal earlier this year.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 07:07 PM   #102
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How a New Runway At O'Hare Makes Travel Easier for All
23 July 2009
The Wall Street Journal

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is no longer the tar pit of the nation's air-transportation system.

In the eight months since a new runway opened at the U.S.'s second-busiest airport, plagued for decades with lengthy flight delays, O'Hare has operated with above-average on-time arrivals -- better than Dallas, Atlanta and Denver in 2009, according to FlightStats.com. O'Hare's on-time arrival rate improved by 27% so far this year compared with the same period of 2008. That was twice the improvement of any other big U.S. airport.

The new runway, opened last Nov. 21, gets much of the credit. While airline reductions in flight schedules have eased congestion and reduced flight delays, the ability to now land three planes simultaneously in most weather conditions instead of two jets at a time has turned O'Hare from a choke point into a reliable airport.

Over the past year, the FAA has also been redesigning routes for planes departing and arriving in the Chicago area. Both O'Hare and Chicago Midway Airport used to share just three departure routes for southbound jets; now each airport has five different departure routes of their own.

Because of the enormous cost and heated legal battles with neighbors and environmentalists, building runways at big airports is a rarity -- and a major reason air travel has been bogged down in the past 10 years. Last fall, three major runways opened with much fanfare on the same day in Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Seattle's new runway took two decades of planning, approval, court fights and construction. O'Hare's new runway was the first at that airport in 37 years.

And yet the changes at O'Hare show just how important new concrete is to improving air travel. Reducing delays at a major hub helps unclog air travel nationwide. "Any improvement we can get at O'Hare has impact all over the country," says Christina Drouet, manager of the FAA's Chicago-area modernization program office.

Passengers have detected a difference. Tim Snyder, a Chicago-based sales and consulting executive for a software company, began noticing that his flights in and out of Chicago were more frequently on time, and arrivals frequently used the new runway. He started keeping track and had a streak of 26 consecutive on-time flights before bad weather in Chicago delayed his flight for two hours. But the streak resumed, and now he's been on time for 36 of his past 37 flights.

"Those are tax dollars I like to spend," says Mr. Snyder.

The new runway is on the north end of the airport, so far from the rest of the airport that a new control tower had to be built with it. The runway and tower cost $457 million and took about three years to construct, including demolition of property on 126 acres of land in Des Plaines, Ill., the airport acquired. A creek was rerouted and terrain raised for the expansion.

It's the first phase of a major modernization program at O'Hare; more runways are planned. By 2014, if the project stays on schedule, the airport will have six parallel east-west runways, up from three today. (O'Hare has a total of seven runways, some of which are used primarily for takeoffs and others are used mostly when winds shift directions.) Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta, two of the nation's three biggest airports, already have five parallel runways each.

Chicago Airport System Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino says the new runway reduced O'Hare's average delay to 16 minutes from 24, and when the entire modernization program is completed, "it will take the delay factor down to six minutes."

The FAA says O'Hare's maximum capacity before the new runway was 96 arrivals per hour in good weather; that's now up to 112 per hour with the new runway. Within a month of opening the new runway, "they were consistently hitting that," says Joseph Kolshak, senior vice president of operations at UAL Corp.'s United Airlines. "We saw improvement right away in our operation."

In bad weather, controllers dropped the arrival rate into the mid-70s per hour, according to the FAA's Ms. Drouet. But now even in bad weather about 85 planes are landing per hour.

That's where the big impact is felt -- when low clouds, rain or snow reduce visibility and force airlines to hold planes on the ground all across the country because of a slowdown at O'Hare.

According to the FAA, 30,000 flights at O'Hare were delayed because of weather in the first five months of 2008. This year through May, only 8,800 weather-delayed flights were recorded "and we had a crazy winter this year with all kinds of snow," says Ms. Drouet.

One example: During snowstorms, O'Hare often would shut off landings on one of two arrival runways while trucks plowed snow. With the new runway, landings can continue on two runways constantly while plows do their work.

"I was skeptical, but a combination of factors have really improved things in Chicago," says Robert Cordes, vice president of operations planning at AMR Corp.'s American Airlines.

Mr. Cordes believes flight-schedule reductions due to the recession have been the biggest factor reducing delays, but says the new runway has helped, too. O'Hare went from being scheduled to 100.8% of its capacity at the beginning of 2008 to now being scheduled to 80% -- the combination of fewer flights and higher capacity.

New York airports, by comparison, have seen only slight schedule reductions. Newark Liberty International Airport is currently scheduled to 99% of its capacity, he says. New York's La Guardia Airport is scheduled to 97% of capacity and Kennedy International Airport is at 89% of capacity.

"Eighty percent is the sweet spot. Get above that and things worsen," Mr. Cordes says.

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, delays typically stacked up in the frequent fog and rain because the two existing runways were too close together to have planes landing side-by-side in poor visibility. So the airport wanted a third runway far enough from the existing runways so planes could land two at a time in any weather.

The project took more than 20 years and cost more than $1 billion. Heavy construction started in 2004. One mile of public road had to be relocated, office buildings and warehouses were torn down, a creek had to be rerouted and 14 million cubic yards of fill had to be brought in from 25 different sources to build up the embankment of the hill where the airport sits. Six massive retaining walls were constructed to hold it all together. One rises 130 feet high and extends 20 feet below ground and is said to be the largest retaining wall in the Western Hemisphere.

"This is a serious engineering feat," says Scott Kyles, a project manager at Sea-Tac.

Once opened, Sea-Tac promptly closed its oldest runway for repaving -- something it had put off for many years to avoid massive flight disruptions. Then the middle runway will be rebuilt and the airport will finally expand capacity.

"We couldn't survive long-term with just two runways," said Mark Reis, Sea-Tac's managing director.
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Old July 26th, 2009, 06:06 PM   #103
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Narita airport to alter taxiway to relieve flight congestion
26 July 2009
Kyodo News

NARITA, Japan, July 26 -- The operator of Narita airport, an international gateway to Tokyo, is preparing work to alter an L-shaped section of a taxiway that have caused flights to back up, airport sources said Sunday.

Although a curved taxiway is rare for an international airport, Narita's second runway has one with two curves and another that is almost M-shaped as they have to circumvent plots of land owned by long-standing opponents of the airport's construction.

The curves have not only provided a headache for pilots and air traffic controllers but have restricted traffic on the B runway to 14 takeoffs and landings per hour, less than half of the main A runway's 32.

In a historic move since the airport opened in 1978, Narita International Airport Corp. has acquired about 85 square meters of land that has prevented the curved taxiway from being altered, the sources said.

In January last year, the Supreme Court ordered opponents, who have campaigned against the airport for 40 years, to abandon land they owned, clearing the way for the airport operator to purchase the land.

Improving the taxiway has become a pressing task as the operator has rescheduled the opening of the B runway's extended section to Oct. 22, five months ahead of the previous plan.

Under International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, emergency evacuation areas for departing and arriving planes are set up along runways but the curved taxiway arches out into this area of the B runway, forcing taxiing planes to wait and causing planes to back up when takeoffs or landings are under way.

The planned improvement work will move the taxiway far enough from the runway so that planes will no longer be forced to wait, according to the sources.

Taxiways linking passenger terminals and aircraft parking aprons to are normally about 20 to 30 meters wide.

Curved taxiways at Narita are notorious for requiring pilots to be more careful than at other airports when maneuvering, airport officials say.

When an airplane is backed up, it wastes fuel as engines are repeatedly halted and restarted as it progresses.

In October, the B runway will extend to 2,500 meters long, as required for landings by wide-body aircraft, compared with the current 2,180 meters. The longer runway will clear the way for an increase in the annual number of landings and takeoffs at Narita to around 220,000 from 200,000 at present when the flight schedule is updated next March.
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Old August 1st, 2009, 09:44 PM   #104
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Bumped from your flight? You've got rights
29 July 2009

DALLAS (AP) - Airlines are operating fewer flights this summer, meaning that planes are packed even with the slump in travel.

Often the airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. Last year, more than 63,000 passengers were bumped, according to government figures, and this year is shaping up as more of the same.

So what should you do if you get bumped? What if your flight is delayed so long that you miss your niece's wedding?

Before bargaining with the gate agent over travel vouchers and upgrades, it pays to know your rights and the airline's responsibilities.

The federal government sets rules on bumping and occasionally fines airlines for breaking them. This month, the Transportation Department fined Delta Air Lines $375,000, although it may waive about half if Delta improves its procedures for handling oversold flights.

Airlines must ask for volunteers first, and pay passengers who are bumped against their will.

If you are bumped from a domestic flight, the airline must pay you the price of a one-way ticket up to $400 cash if you are rescheduled to reach your destination between one and two hours of the original arrival time. The maximum doubles to $800 if it takes longer.

Some passengers with time to kill don't mind getting bumped. They hope to get cash, travel vouchers or an upgrade to first-class in exchange for taking a slightly later flight.

Chris McGinnis, a travel consultant in San Francisco, says the best flights to haggle over are late-afternoon or evening ones popular with business travelers who can't afford to be stranded overnight. Airlines are likely to offer more for passengers who give up a seat on a New York-Chicago run than on a flight full of vacationers from Atlanta to Orlando, he says.

Gate agents may put out a sign or simply tell passengers that they're looking for volunteers to skip the flight. McGinnis says it's often best to ignore their first offer and wait until departure time nears.

"The bidding gets stronger," he says. "That's when it goes from $100 off your next flight to maybe $300 and a business-class seat on the next flight out."

Experts warn about accepting travel vouchers. They might be hard to redeem, especially at peak travel periods. Make sure you understand any limitations.

Travelers are often baffled why airlines can sell more tickets than they have seats. Airlines oversell flights because some passengers buy costly fully refundable tickets on more than one flight and then only use one. Other flights are overbooked because the airline had to substitute a smaller plane with fewer seats.

While there are federal rules on bumping, there is no sweeping requirement for airlines to provide hotel rooms and meals for passengers who are stranded overnight, even if it's the carrier's fault, according to the Transportation Department. But you can haggle.

"It's up to the discretion of the carrier and the (gate) agent," says George Hobica, who operates airfarewatchdog.com. "Some airlines will do their best if you ask nicely and you ask privately you'll do better than if you make a scene." He says when a long delay appears obvious, you should ask to be rebooked on another airline.

Charlotte, N.C., real estate broker Mathew Bessette says Delta put him up in a hotel after his flight home from New York was canceled and a second flight spent four hours on the tarmac. He says he gained bargaining power by knowing the cause of the problem with his first flight no flight attendants.

"If their plane breaks down or their crew doesn't show up, that's their problem and it's their responsibility to accommodate you within reason," he says.

Veteran travelers say if a long delay will cause you to miss the reason for your trip a wedding or business meeting, for example ask for a refund. However, there is no law requiring the airline to give you a refund.

Airlines and passenger-rights groups are fighting over how the carriers handle long delays, and Congress may settle the issue. This month, a Senate committee passed a bill that would require airlines to let passengers off planes that are stuck on the tarmac for three hours.

The airlines say such a law would make things worse by forcing planes that might be near the front of the takeoff line to taxi back to the gate, then go to the back of the pack. More flights would be canceled, says David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a Washington trade group for the largest U.S. carriers. Consumer groups aren't buying it.

"No one believes that the airlines will fix the problem themselves," says Kate Hanni, a California real estate agent who created a passenger-rights group after being stranded on a grounded American Airlines jet for more than eight hours in December 2006. "They haven't yet."

Since airline travel is often stressful, and summer always brings many delays, experts advise you have a Plan B. Know what flights are available if yours is canceled. If your flight is pushed back or scrubbed, hop on your laptop or phone to see if you can rebook.

"Prepare for the worst," says Hobica, the travel expert. "Bring a good book."
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Old August 6th, 2009, 12:59 PM   #105
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DOT says more flights arrived late in June than in preceding months; weather a factor
4 August 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. airlines in June turned in their worst on-time performance since December, the Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

The airlines had a combined on-time arrival rate of 76.1 percent compared with 80.5 percent in May. But the carriers had fewer delayed flights this June than in the same month a year ago. The on-time rate in December was 65.3 percent.

The most frequent reasons for flight delays included airport congestion, equipment problems and weather.

June was a bad month for severe weather across the nation. The National Weather Service recorded more than 6,400 incidents involving hail and high winds, almost twice the number reported in May.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in June, while Comair -- a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. -- had the worst.

Among legacy carriers, Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. reported the fewest delays, and Fort Worth-based American Airlines posted the worst on-time performance.

Legacy carriers are those airlines that had a large presence in a number of regions before the industry was deregulated in 1978.

19 Airlines report monthly on-time data and the causes of delays and cancellations for nonstop flights to the Department of Transportation in broad categories -- such as "Extreme Weather" and "National Aviation System Delay" -- that were created by the airlines, industry groups, travel agents and government officials.

Delays had eased in recent months as carriers reduced flights and flew smaller planes because of fewer passengers.

A flight is considered on-time if it arrives within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time shown in the carriers' computerized reservations systems. Canceled and diverted flights are counted as late.

Reports of mishandled baggage fell 20 percent in June from a year ago, DOT said, but there were more complaints in June than in May. AirTran had the fewest complaints, while Fort Worth-based American Eagle Airlines -- a regional affiliate of American Airlines -- had the most.

DOT said overall complaints were also down from a year ago. Passengers complained most about cancellations, delays and missed connections.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 06:22 AM   #106
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A look at airlines' on-time performance as reported by the DOT
By The Associated Press
4 August 2009

The following lists 19 airlines' on-time performance in June and overall on-time performance since the beginning of the year, according to data from the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Carrier On-Time Arrival Pct.

Hawaiian Airlines 93.3

Alaska Airlines 84.5

ExpressJet Airlines 82.0

Pinnacle Airlines 80.7

Continental Airlines 80.5

SkyWest Airlines 80.4

Southwest Airlines 78.1

US Airways 78.0

Delta Airlines 76.1

AirTran Airways 75.3

Northwest Airlines 75.3

American Eagle 74.4

Mesa Airline 74.2

Atlantic Southeast Airlines 73.2

United Airlines 72.6

JetBlue Airways 71.2

American Airlines 69.2

Frontier Airlines 68.0

Comair 59.8

All Airlines

Monthly On-Time Arrival Pct.

June 76.1

May 80.5

April 79.1

March 78.4

February 82.6

January 77.0
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Old August 15th, 2009, 07:10 AM   #107
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Analysis: Will latest airline passenger stranding clear government reforms for take off?
14 August 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - When Washington learned 47 people were stuck overnight aboard a small plane at a Minnesota airport, Capitol Hill reverberated with demands to protect the public from a recurrence, and the Obama administration launched an investigation.

But in its hunt for blame, the government isn't owning up to the fact that it had a hand in letting the mess happen, too.

Over recent years, nightmare strandings on the runway have prompted lots of political posturing, but few results.

The problem continues. From January to June this year, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours, their passengers kept on board, the government says.

None created the stir that Continental Express Flight 2816 from Houston did after it was diverted Friday night to an airport in Rochester, Minn. Passengers were forced to sit for more than six hours in a cramped plane with crying babies and a stinking toilet, even though the plane stood only 50 yards from a terminal.

"It strikes me as very dysfunctional that neither the Department of Transportation nor the Congress has seen fit to bring some meaningful guidelines to this area," said Ken Mead, a former Transportation Department inspector general. "I have to ask myself, what does it take?"

Congress and the Clinton administration tried to do something after a January 1999 blizzard kept Northwest Airlines planes on the ground in Detroit, trapping passengers for seven hours. Some new regulations were put in place but most proposals died, including one that airlines pay passengers who are kept waiting on a runway for more than two hours.

Later episodes left the status quo in place, despite attempts by some in government to find a remedy.

In December 2006, lightning storms and a tornado warning shut the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, causing American Airlines to divert more than 100 flights and stranding passengers on some planes for as long as nine hours.

Two months later, snow and ice led JetBlue Airways to leave planes full of passengers sitting on the tarmac at New York's Kennedy International Airport for nearly 11 hours.

After those incidents, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel recommended that airlines be required to set a limit on the time passengers have to wait out travel delays grounded inside an airplane.

Mary Peters, who was transportation secretary under former President George W. Bush, proposed requiring airlines to have contingency plans for stranded passengers. The idea was that if airlines include these plans in their "contract of carriage" -- the fine print on an airline ticket -- consumers can hold them responsible in court if they break their promise.

An industry-dominated panel set up by the government debated the matter for 11 months, then issued a report in November 2008 that offered only guidelines for what a model plan should look like.

Neither those guidelines nor Peters' still-pending proposed rule contain a specific limit on how long passengers can be kept waiting before being allowed to return to a gate. The airlines and Bush administration officials said each company is so different that a single time limit would cause more problems than it solves.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Peters' successor, has said he will consider the experience of Flight 2816 as he weighs what action to take on the pending rule.

After the JetBlue strandings at JFK, New York state lawmakers enacted a "passenger bill of rights" requiring airlines to provide food, water, working toilets and fresh air for passengers held on tarmacs more than three hours. The law was thrown out last year by a U.S. appeals court, which ruled that individual states cannot make laws regulating airlines. That discouraged other states from trying.

In Congress two years ago, Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced a bill similar to the New York law. It attracted only 12 co-sponsors, including the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. That bill, however, also lacked a specific time limit on strandings.

This year, Boxer and Snowe have reintroduced their bill and added a three-hour time limit, among other consumer protections. The bill would give airline captains the power to extend a tarmac wait by a half-hour beyond the three-hour limit if there is reason to believe takeoff clearance is likely to come soon. The captain could also keep passengers from returning to the gate if doing so is deemed unsafe.

The bill, now part of larger legislation governing the Federal Aviation Administration, is expected to be voted on by the Senate in September, with the possibility the time limit will come out of it. A House FAA bill passed in the spring has no time limit.

The airline industry, in opposing a limit on tarmac delays, argues that more flights will be canceled and passengers will spend more time in terminals trying to get on a flight to their destination than if they had continued to wait in the plane.

Kenneth Quinn, a former FAA general counsel, said there is no reason for the Transportation Department to further delay requiring airlines to put contingency plans in their contracts of carriage. He said the department has the power to fine airlines that engage in deceptive practices, which would include violating a contingency plan.

"Somebody needs to step into the void before more passengers get stranded without any recourse," said Quinn, an attorney with the Pillsbury law firm in Washington.

Passengers' rights advocates said voluntary guidelines and allowing airlines to write their own contingency plans won't work. They want a time limit.

"No one believes the airlines are going to make any effort to fix this on their own," said FlyersRights.org founder Kate Hanni, who was a passenger on one of the Dallas planes in 2006. "The only time they have made any effort is when the threat of legislation was very real."

------

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Joan Lowy covers transportation for The Associated Press.
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Old August 25th, 2009, 07:38 PM   #108
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Sun Country to limit waits on planes to 4 hours
24 August 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Sun Country Airlines, under fire for keeping 150 passengers on the tarmac for nearly six hours, says it will start sending planes that sit on the runway for four hours back to the gate to let people off.

While passenger advocates said the move is a beginning, Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org, said four hours is still too long. Lawmakers and several groups like hers are trying use a series of similar incidents this summer to build support for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights that is pending before Congress.

Sun Country's Flight 242 from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to Twin Cities International Airport had been scheduled to take off about 11 a.m. last Friday. It started boarding at noon but then didn't take off until after 6 p.m. because of airport construction and weather delays.

Stan Gadek, chief executive of Mendota Heights-based Sun Country, called that delay unacceptable. He said Monday that the airline's new policy is modeled on the proposed legislation, which is aimed at ensuring that people aren't trapped on airplanes for long periods without adequate food, water or restrooms. It would limit such delays to three hours.

Gadek said Sun Country could live with a three-hour limit anywhere but JFK, which has chronic problems with long delays.

"Until airlines start imposing some discipline on themselves, these events are going to continue to occur," he said.

Gadek said Sun Country won't necessarily wait four hours before making a decision. A plane might head back to the gate after two hours if the flight crew determines they probably won't be able to make the four-hour deadline, he said.

Sun Country is not the first airline to set a time limit for getting people off delayed planes, though Gadek said other airlines' policies strike him as "wishy-washy." A 2007 report by the Transportation Department inspector general said eight airlines it checked had limits for departing flights that varied from two to five hours.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who sits on a Senate committee that oversees the air travel system, said she would continue to push the legislation. Friday's delay also led U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and New York State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, to call Sunday for it to be passed.

Government statistics show that from January to June, 613 planes nationwide were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours and their passengers were kept on board.

Friday's incident marked the second six-hour delay for Minnesota-bound planes in two weeks. Severe thunderstorms had forced a Continental Express flight from Houston to Minneapolis to land in Rochester, where 47 passengers were stranded on the tarmac overnight. That incident triggered a federal investigation.

Hanni expressed hope that the recent incidents will boost the chances for the passengers rights legislation.

"We need to take these discretionary decisions out of the hands of airlines and their employees," she said.

The Business Travel Coalition also said the incidents should improve prospects for the proposal. "It would appear that unstoppable momentum is building behind passenger rights legislation," the group said in a statement this weekend.

------

On the Net:

Sun Country Airlines: http://www.suncountry.com
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 01:17 PM   #109
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FAA to restructure New York air space

WASHINGTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - U.S. aviation regulators plan to reorganize air space over New York's Hudson River to eliminate the type of crowding that contributed to a collision of a small plane and a helicopter that killed nine people.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday it would create altitude corridors for different aircraft to streamline traffic around Manhattan and prevent congestion.

The agency also plans to develop new training for pilots, air traffic controllers and businesses that operate helicopters and other aircraft in the area. A key change would require pilots to use specific radio frequencies for the Hudson and East rivers.

"These steps will significantly enhance safety in this busy area and create crystal clear rules for all of the pilots who operate there," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement.

The agency hopes to have the changes in place by mid-November.

Under current guidelines, pilots are mainly responsible for safety when flying over the river. Navigating the river can require multiple radio frequencies, a problem noted by crash investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Aug. 8 collision.
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Old September 8th, 2009, 11:19 AM   #110
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Fliers on delayed planes get more support
More travel groups want Congress to set time limit

8 September 2009
USA Today

Airlines are losing another ally in their fight to stop Congress from passing a law that would allow passengers to get off planes delayed at least three hours on airport tarmacs.

The Business Travel Coalition, a group that represents about 300 corporate travel departments, is coming out today in support of such a law after having opposed congressional action.

The coalition's shift comes after it surveyed 649 corporate travel departments, travel agents and business travelers and found that more than 90% of travel departments -- and about 80% of travel agents and business travelers -- say passengers should have the option to get off flights delayed three hours or longer.

It also follows a similar shift in positions by two other business travel groups -- the National Business Travel Association and the American Society of Travel Agents. And it comes as Congress is poised this fall to vote on so-called passenger rights legislation that would force the airlines to give passengers stuck on flights options.

The survey results "reveal a striking change in thinking in the mainstream business community about the need for congressional intervention," says Kevin Mitchell, the coalition's chairman.

"Some of the largest corporations on the planet, for whom government involvement in free markets is anathema, overwhelmingly have concluded that legislation is the best choice after 10 years of shattered promises of self-policing by airlines," he says.

Airlines don't want legislation

Although rare, more than 200,000 domestic passengers have been stuck on more than 3,000 planes for three hours or more waiting to take off or taxi to a gate since January 2007, a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Transportation Department data has found.

In June, 278 flights waited on the tarmac for at least three hours, the most recent numbers from the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics show.

The issue has attracted greater attention after an incident last month in which 51 passengers were stuck overnight on a delayed Continental Express flight at the Rochester, Minn., airport. The incident, in which passengers complained of a smelly toilet and not having food or drink, also has drawn greater attention to the legislation.

The House and Senate must decide on final wording of any passenger-rights provisions that now are in a bill to reauthorize and fund the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Senate committee voted in July to require airlines to let people off planes delayed for more than three hours. The House earlier had passed a less specific version that requires each airline to submit to the Department of Transportation a plan to let passengers off.

The Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. airlines, says long delays "are unacceptable," and it understands why they frustrate passengers. But, the group says, it opposes legislation that would force airlines to return planes to terminals after a set time to let off passengers.

Airlines have established "contingency plans" to deal with long tarmac delays and can handle the problems themselves without government intervention, says David Castelveter, the group's vice president.

"We continue to believe that a hard-and-fast mandatory rule for deplaning passengers will have substantial unintended consequences, leading to even more inconvenience for passengers and, ultimately, more flight cancellations," Castelveter says.

Airlines have spent a lot of money to improve service, he says, "including the use of new technology, the purchase of the most modern aircraft and facility improvement projects."

But passenger-rights groups -- and now business groups -- are saying they cannot count on the airlines to solve the delays, and Congress must step in and force the airlines to let passengers off planes.

Congress must set 'clear standard'

Kate Hanni of FlyersRights.org says three should be the maximum number of hours before a passenger is allowed off a plane, but many members of her group wonder if the limit should be one or two hours.

"Why in the USA do we even have to ask for a three-hour limit on the ground in a sealed, hot, sweaty metal tube?" she asks. "We thought this country was founded on freedom -- freedom to move, freedom to breathe, freedom to eat and drink and have hygienic toilet facilities."

The Business Travel Coalition, which for years has testified at congressional hearings in support of airlines remedying the tarmac- delay problem on their own, now agrees with FlyersRights.org. The two groups have scheduled a Sept. 22 conference in Washington to discuss the issue.

About 80% of the respondents to the coalition's survey, many of whom handle travel for Fortune 500 firms, said the airlines haven't made a compelling case against the legislation.

It was the Aug. 7 delay in Rochester, in which the passengers were held on the Continental Express jet for 5 1/2 hours, that turned the National Business Travel Association around. The association, which represents about 4,200 corporate travel departments and suppliers, had previously taken the position that the airlines should solve the problem.

In July, the American Society of Travel Agents reversed course and urged Congress to act "in the face of continuing delays and the evident lack of concrete efforts on the part of airlines to create a meaningful solution."

Paul Ruden, the society's senior vice president, was on a Transportation Department task force last year that recommended airlines establish time limits at each airport for letting passengers off planes.

But that hasn't worked, he says, and Congress now needs to set "a clear standard for the airlines to follow."
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Old September 9th, 2009, 11:42 AM   #111
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Airlines July on-time arrival ratings improve, with Southwest tops among big carriers
8 September 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Airline passengers got to their destination on time a little more often in July.

The Transportation Department said on Tuesday that 77.6 percent of airline flights arrived on time, up from 75.7 percent during the same month last year. July's showing was also an improvement over the 76.1 percent on-time rate in June.

Airlines have generally been flying less because of the recession, and that seems to be helping them get their remaining flights to their destinations on time.

Among the largest carriers, Southwest Airlines flights were on-schedule 80.7 percent of the time, followed by US Airways at 80.6 percent and United Airlines at 79.6 percent. United's ranking was a big jump from June's on-time performance of 72.6 percent, among the worst of the big carriers.

American Airlines was last-place among major carriers, with 72.2 percent of its flights arriving on time. Delta Air Lines was a little better at 75.5 percent, and its subsidiary Northwest Airlines came in at 76.4 percent.

Airlines said the biggest cause of delays was the late arrival of the airplane to be used on the delayed flight. Other big causes included delays from airport operations and heavy traffic, as well as delays the airline could control, such as maintenance or crew. Weather was cited as a factor in less than 1 percent of all flights.

Nineteen Airlines report monthly on-time data and causes of delays to the Department of Transportation. The delays are labeled under categories such as "Extreme Weather" and "National Aviation System Delay" that were created by the airlines, industry groups, travel agents and government officials.

A flight is considered on-time if it arrives within 15 minutes of the schedule shown in the carriers' reservation systems. Canceled and diverted flights are counted as late.

Among all 19 carriers, Hawaiian Airlines topped the list, with 93.6 percent of its flights arriving on-time. Comair, a regional subsidiary of Delta, was last at 63.6 percent.

The airlines lost less luggage in July, too. The rate of lost bags dropped to 3.98 per 1,000 passengers in July, down from 4.87 in July 2008. Baggage fees became more widespread during that year, causing many travelers to cut back on the amount of luggage they haul to the airport. That has helped airlines do a better job with the remaining bags. The total number of baggage reports fell 21.4 percent to 215,276, even though the number of passengers fell only 3.8 percent.

AirTran Airways had the best performance, with 1.78 mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers. American Eagle, the regional carrier owned by American Airlines parent AMR Corp., was in last place with 7.9 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Among the biggest carriers, US Airways had the best performance with 2.75 lost bags per 1,000 passengers, while American was at the bottom with 4.73.
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Old September 10th, 2009, 01:13 PM   #112
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Flying just got faster with shortest plane delays for 14 years
10 September 2009
The Scotsman

PASSENGERS at Britain's busiest airports experienced the shortest delays for 14 years this spring, with marked improvements at Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Average hold-ups for scheduled flights at Scotland's two main airports were cut by one-third to nine and ten minutes respectively in April to June compared with a year ago, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

A total of 84 per cent of such flights - more than four in five - arrived on time at both airports, some 10 per cent better than a year ago. "On time" is classed as within 15 minutes of schedule.

News of the improvement comes days after Network Rail reported a record 91.1 per cent of trains across Britain arrived within five minutes of scheduled times over the last year.

BAA Scotland, which runs Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, said cuts in flights caused by the recession had helped improve time-keeping by reducing congestion at airports including Heathrow.

The CAA said the improvement had coincided with a 9 per cent reduction in flights - to the lowest level for six years - and a 6 per cent cut in passengers.

Charter flight punctuality also improved at Glasgow, with average delays nearly halved to 18 minutes, and three in four planes on time compared with only just over half a year ago.

At Edinburgh, where charter flights account for a far smaller proportion of flights, punctuality slipped by 2 per cent to 70 per cent, with average delays unchanged at 19 minutes.

A BAA Scotland spokesman said: "We are pleased to see such a significant improvement in flight punctuality at Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.

"The vast majority of delays are caused by problems outwith the immediate control of our airports, such as bad weather, air traffic control restrictions and delays from inbound aircraft.

"However, we have taken steps to improve the operation of our airports, including better stand planning and, in the case of Edinburgh, the use of improved taxiing. The reduced schedule of flights at some congested airports has helped to reduce delays to inbound aircraft."

The spokesman said a 14 per cent punctuality improvement at Heathrow to 80 per cent was likely to have had a positive impact on the Scottish airports as the London hub was their number one destination.

Overall, 81 per cent of scheduled flights at ten major airports - including all five around London - were on time.

This was 11 per cent better than in spring 2008 and the best April-June figure since 1995.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 10:32 AM   #113
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Bumped Passengers Learn a Cruel Flying Lesson
17 September 2009
The Wall Street Journal Online

Air travel has gotten a lot bumpier this year on the ground.

Passengers are getting bumped from flights at the highest rate in at least 14 years, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation last year doubled the penalties airlines have to pay passengers who have tickets but are denied seats. Among the reasons: Passengers are more reluctant to voluntarily give up seats when flights are oversold for fear of being stranded for a day or two. And some airlines have made their vouchers less generous to save money.

Bumping is still relatively rare, affecting fewer than two passengers out of every 10,000. But the rate at which passengers were bumped in the second quarter skyrocketed 40% compared with a year ago, and airlines say the higher rate will likely continue.

As carriers have slashed capacity, grounding airplanes and cutting flights from schedules, they have packed more people into their remaining flights sometimes too many people.

"It's pretty simple: It's just because planes are more full than last year," says Tom Trenga, vice president of revenue management at US Airways Group Inc., which had the highest bumping rate among major airlines, at 1.88 passengers per 10,000 in the second quarter.

This summer, the nine major airlines filled 85.5% of their seats, up from 84.1% last summer. The peak was July, with 86.7% of seats filled. This fall, airlines are aggressively cutting back capacity even further, worried that continued weak business travel could cripple them financially.

That means increased bumping will continue, Mr. Trenga says, until airlines see enough of a pickup in demand to begin bringing flights back into schedules, easing the logjam.

In the second quarter, the most recent reported by the DOT, 20,916 passengers, or 1.39 for every 10,000, were involuntarily denied boarding at major and regional airlines, up from 15,119, or 1.0 per 10,000, in the same period of 2008. (Ten times as many people gave up their seats voluntarily in return for airline vouchers toward future trips.)

If you do get bumped, you are entitled to cash compensation under the DOT's penalty rules, though the airline will likely offer you vouchers. You can insist that the airline pay you on the spot. Do it. Vouchers can have blackout dates, require you to purchase higher fares to use the voucher or even require you to cash in the voucher and buy a ticket in person at an airport rather than booking online.

Desperate for Revenue

Federal rules allow airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats on a plane because customers occasionally change flights or don't show up. Carriers have to balance the cost of compensating customers who get bumped with the cost of having an empty seat when a ticket could have been sold. With the economic downturn, airlines are desperate for any revenue and may be willing to take on more overbooking risk.

Several airlines say they have bumped more people from flights because they have had a harder time getting travelers to voluntarily give up seats. Because flights have been so full, a passenger who gives up a seat voluntarily in return for a voucher toward a future trip may have to wait a day or more to get a seat on another flight.

That means airlines end up refusing boarding to more ticketed passengers, Mr. Trenga says.

In addition, airlines often place heavy restrictions on vouchers. Sometimes vouchers worth $100 or $200 off a ticket can't be applied to the airline's cheapest fares, for example, or they have blackout dates or require customers to buy tickets in person at an airport instead of online.

Alaska Airlines, a unit of Alaska Air Group Inc., tried to cut the value of vouchers in December and saw the rate at which it bumped passengers soar 269% in the second quarter to 1.66 per 10,000, from 0.45 per 10,000 in the same period of 2008.

Before the change, Alaska and its Horizon Air regional-airline unit gave a free ticket to anyone voluntarily giving up a seat when a flight was oversold. But Alaska switched to a two-tier voucher system passengers got a $200 voucher to apply to a future ticket for giving up a seat on a shorter flight and a $400 voucher for a longer flight.

"The perception among those customers on shorter flights was that $200 wasn't enough to offer up their seats as a volunteer," a spokeswoman says. In June, Alaska upped the offer for volunteers on shorter flights to a $300 voucher, "and we've seen a steady decline in the number of involuntary denied boardings since," she says.

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines saw its bumped-passenger rate climb 73% this year to 1.71 passengers per 10,000, second only to US Airways. United says bumping increased because a greater number of leisure passengers have been filling planes than in the past as a result of the downturn in business travel. "They show up for their flight much more often than a business traveler typically does," a spokeswoman says. "As a result, we had fewer no-shows than what we typically see."

The DOT says it isn't concerned about the rise in bumping because the rates are still lower than historical highs. During the 1970s and 1980s, bumping rates were routinely four times as high as today's rate.

Penalties Doubled

Still, the agency doubled compensation penalties for denied boarding last year, the first change in 30 years.

Passengers who are involuntarily bumped will receive compensation equal to their one-way fare up to $400 if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time for domestic flights and four hours for international flights. The mandatory compensation, depending on ticket price, doubles to $800 if passengers reach their destination later than the two- or four-hour limits.

The best way to avoid getting bumped from a flight is to buy tickets only for flights on which you can reserve a seat and to print your boarding pass early to lay claim to that seat. Passengers should be especially vigilant with regional airlines, which generally have the highest bumping rates in the industry.

And if you're not in a hurry and want to game the system as many passengers do you should book flights with few open seats at peak travel hours and tell gate agents early that you are willing to give up your seat if volunteers are needed. For some passengers, vouchers can cut the cost of future trips dramatically. Just make sure you know what you are getting from the airline, what strings are attached, and when your next flight out will be.
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Old September 18th, 2009, 02:07 AM   #114
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidekicker View Post
is this only happening in America?
dont worry .it is happening everywhere.
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Old September 23rd, 2009, 11:17 AM   #115
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Former American Airlines CEO joins passenger rights advocates backing tarmac stranding limit
22 September 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - A former CEO of American Airlines on Tuesday backed imposition of a three-hour time limit on how long airlines can strand passengers on airport tarmacs, but he also warned of unintended consequences.

Robert Crandall parted company from his former industry colleagues and joined passengers rights advocates as they took their case to Congress, staging a hearing in a meeting room provided for the event by a House committee.

Crandall said he supports legislation pending in the Senate that would require that passengers be allowed to deplane after a three-hour wait. The bill makes an exception for instances when the pilot believes the plane will takeoff in the next half-hour or it might be unsafe to leave the plane.

"I think the airline industry should have led the way in responding to this problem rather than having resisted it," Crandall said. "Every responsible airline executive I know thinks these things are an outrage."

However, he said returning passengers to terminals likely will result in more flight cancellations and modest fare increases.

Since flights are increasingly full or nearly full due to airlines' cutbacks in schedules, passengers who opt to deplane may have difficulty finding seats on other planes and may be delayed longer than if they had continued to wait on a runway, Crandall said.

He recommended an initial four-hour time limit to give airlines time to make adjustments before ratcheting down to a three-hour limit in 2011.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., co-sponsor of a "passengers bill of rights" containing the three-hour limit, rejected Crandall's suggestion. There are "a lot of folks behind the scenes who don't want this legislation," Boxer said. "I'm going to fight for the three hours because it will get watered down -- it always does."

The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, declined invitations to attend the hearing. The association has warned there will be more inconvenience and delay for passengers if a hard time limit is imposed.

Passengers right advocate Kate Hanni called that assertion a "myth." She said advocates only want passengers to be given the option to deplane every three hours, and that doesn't require the plane to return to a gate. She said airport people movers or other equipment could be used to help people leave planes still in takeoff queues.

Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org, pointed to the example of Sun Country Flight 242, which sat on the tarmac at Kennedy International Airport in New York for nearly six hours last month before it was allowed to take off for Minneapolis.

Of the 136 passengers aboard the flight, 96 were connecting through Minneapolis and most likely missed their connections and had to spend the night there before they could get other flights to their destinations, Hanni said. Those passengers might have been better off if they'd had an opportunity to get off in New York after it became apparent they would no longer make their connections, she said.

Two weeks earlier severe thunderstorms forced a Continental Express flight from Houston to Minneapolis to land in Rochester, Minn., where 47 passengers were forced to sit in a cramped plane for six hours overnight amid crying babies and a stinking toilet before they were allowed to deplane.

A Transportation Department investigation found that employees of a Delta Air Lines subsidiary -- the only workers still at the airport -- refused to make a gate available to the plane because the airport was closed and security personnel had gone home.
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Old November 24th, 2009, 07:05 PM   #116
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Continental Airlines Hit With DOT Fine For Stranding Passengers On Tarmac -CNBC
24 November 2009
Dow Jones News Service

Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) on Tuesday was fined $100,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation over the carrier's handling of an Aug. 7-8 incident in Minnesota in which 51 passengers aboard a flight operated for Continental by ExpressJet Holdings Inc. (XJT) were stranded for hours on the airport tarmac, NBC News reported. The fine, which the report said was to be formally announced later Tuesday by the DOT, is believed to be the first against a U.S. airline in connection with a passenger-stranding incident. Flight 2816, flying from Houston to Minneapolis-St. Paul late the night of Aug. 7 when bad weather in the Twin Cities forced it to land 150 miles away in Rochester, Minn. The passengers were forced to spend nearly six hours overnight on the plane with little food or water.
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Old November 25th, 2009, 04:48 PM   #117
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Long flight delays drive down airline stocks-study

NEW YORK, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Extensive flight delays irritate travelers, but investors do not like them much either.

A study this summer by researchers who teach at business schools in the United Kingdom and the United States found that airlines stocks tend to drop sharply when flights are delayed two hours or more or are canceled.

That is not only because the industry incurs huge fuel and labor costs by sitting on the tarmac. Delays and cancellations can also lead to a sharp losses in revenue as passengers flock to competing carriers when they make future travel plans.

"Customers make future buying decisions based on the service they experience," said Kamalini Ramdas, a professor of management science at the London Business School and one of four authors of the study, which has not yet been published.

U.S. airlines have been under fire in recent years for extensive delays and a few particularly egregious events.

Flight delays cost U.S. airlines roughly $9.6 billion in 2008, according to the Air Transport Association.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government fined three U.S. airlines Continental Airlines Inc , ExpressJet and Mesaba, a unit of Delta Air Lines Inc , for an incident on Aug. 8 that left passengers stranded overnight in a Minnesota airport because of bad weather. [ID:nN24308284]

"If an airline performs poorly in January, after a month or two it starts to affect sales," Ramdas said. "The stock price will incorporate the idea that you will lose future revenue."

That revenue tends to return after about six months, Ramdas added. The study focuses on delays occurring between January 1990 and December 2006.

The paper, 'Can Stock Price Movements Inform Operational Improvements Efforts? Evidence from the Airline Industry," is based on research done by the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia.

Through September this year, nearly 19 percent of all flights were delayed, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which defines a delay as more than 15 minutes after scheduled arrival.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 10:10 AM   #118
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US airlines can face big fines for long delays

WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines could face stiff fines for stranding passengers aboard grounded planes for more than three hours, according to a regulation that officials said on Monday was aimed at upholding passenger rights.

The Transportation Department initiative tries to address public and government frustration with lengthy runway delays, especially those that leave passengers without food, water or adequate bathroom facilities.

"Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters.

For the first time, the government will require airlines to let passengers get off planes that have been at a gate or on a taxiway waiting to take off or get access to a terminal.

Exceeding the three-hour limit could result in fines of up to $27,000 per passenger, the Transportation Department said.

Airlines also would have to ensure that passengers get food, water and adequate bathroom facilities during long delays.

There were 1,100 tarmac delays of at least three hours between October 2008 and October 2009, government figures show. There were more than 7 million flights during that period.

In November, the Transportation Department proposed $175,000 in fines against Continental Airlines Inc, its ExpressJet Airlines affiliate and Mesaba Airlines, a unit of Delta Air Lines, for a nearly six-hour ground delay at Rochester, Minnesota, in August.

Overall flight delays cost U.S. airlines roughly $9.8 million in 2008, according to industry figures.

Shares of most major carriers were up slightly on Monday despite significant weekend cancellations and delays due to the Northeast snowstorm and higher oil prices. Analysts have been more positive about the sector recently.

PILOTS MAKE THE CALL

The decision to let passengers off planes rests with the captain, who could exceed the three-hour limit because of security or safety concerns. Crews could also keep people aboard if letting them off would disrupt air traffic.

The regulation would take effect just at the start of the spring and summer travel season, the worst for delays.

Major airlines, through their trade association, said they would comply even though they say it will lead to more canceled flights and more passenger inconvenience.

"The requirement of having planes return to the gates within a three-hour window or face significant fines is inconsistent with our goal of completing as many flights as possible," said Jim May, CEO of the Air Transport Association.

Airlines have fought congressional efforts to craft similar rights legislation. Two lawmakers leading the attempt, Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe, applauded the administration's regulation. But the pair said they would push ahead with their bill to put requirements and penalties into law.

The rule, tougher than one proposed by the Bush administration a year ago, also prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights. Continuing to do so could result in fines. It also requires airlines to display flight delay information on their websites.

The regulation does not apply to international airlines. Most cases involve domestic airlines.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition trade group, said airlines must reevaluate scheduling practices at busy airports, especially in New York. "Over the long term, however, passengers will move throughout the aviation system much more efficiently."
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 08:12 AM   #119
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WTF is up with US aviation? 1100+ delays of 3 hours or more in a year? I know they have like thousands of flights a day, but still!
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 04:46 PM   #120
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Airlines Fight EU Rule on Passenger Delays
3 March 2010
The Wall Street Journal

BRUSSELS—European airlines are battling against consumer advocates over recent changes to the European Union's air-passenger protection rules that carriers say could cost them up to €5 billion ($6.8 billion) annually, deepen their losses and force up ticket prices.

The change stems from a November ruling by a top EU court, which was applied for the first time last month by authorities in Germany and Spain. The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, significantly increased the number of flights for which passengers can claim compensation because it equated a delay of more than three hours with an outright cancellation.

The EU's original air-passenger protection law, passed in 2004, spelled out clear penalties for flight cancellations but was less specific about delays. The law covers all EU airlines and any flight departing from an EU airport. Payouts can range from €250 to €600 per passenger, no matter the price of the ticket.

The European court, whose decision is now law, reasoned that the impact of a delay is comparable to that of a cancellation: A passenger arrives late. It ruled both should therefore be treated equally. Significantly, the ruling is retroactive to 2005, when the law came into force.

European airlines were stunned by the decision, which they argue effectively rewrote the legislation. Carriers are lobbying European authorities to amend the law or return the case to the European Court through another test-case. But either path could take two years and holds an uncertain outcome, lawyers say.

The issue promises to be a focus of a conference Wednesday at the European Parliament organized jointly by Brian Simpson, chairman of the parliament's transport committee, and the Association of European Airlines, a trade group. The session, which is outside the legislative process, comes as the EU considers updating its passenger-rights law. Officials from airlines including Air France-KLM SA and British Airways PLC are slated to square off against representatives of several consumer groups over how airlines operate and treat customers.

Consumer advocates have lauded the European court decision as a victory for passengers. "We wholeheartedly welcome the ECJ decision," said David McCullough, spokesman for BEUC, an umbrella organization for European consumer groups in Brussels.

But a group of British airlines in December warned their government that "this judgment calls into question the viability of the industry in its current form." Eight members of the British Air Transport Association wrote to the country's transport secretary to attack the ruling, arguing it would add between €3 billion and €5 billion annually to European carriers' liability for delay compensation.

The total amount airlines currently pay in compensation isn't tallied by either the EU or airlines. Carriers generally don't publish figures on their payments.

Airline critics say carriers are exaggerating the impact. EUClaim, a Dutch company that processes filings under the EU legislation and takes a 27% cut of any payout, estimates the ruling will add roughly €850 million annually.

Still, European airlines overall are deeply unprofitable and industry officials say the ruling will increase their losses. They predict higher ticket prices and a wave of knock-on lawsuits by carriers against government-run air traffic control systems and other industry players, who are ultimately responsible for many delays.

Mr. Simpson, the European Parliament member hosting Wednesday's conference and a framer of the original legislation, said in an interview that he and other parliamentarians believe airlines skirt rules to put profits ahead of passengers' convenience.

"Members believe the airlines are flouting the law" by using technicalities to avoid paying compensation claims, said Mr. Simpson, a member of Britain's left-of-center Labour Party. The EU court ruling, he noted, resulted from lawsuits over passenger claims that airlines had balked at paying.

"The industry brought this ruling upon themselves by desperately trying to find loopholes," Mr. Simpson said. "You could say the industry was hoisted by their own petard."

Airline-industry officials argue that the 2004 law is ambiguous. They say the recent EU court decision has worsened the situation by rewriting the law in ways its creators had explicitly rejected.

"The regulation is poorly drafted," said Anthony Concil, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, a global trade group. "That a court can interpret a delay of three hours as a cancellation goes back to the ambiguity of the legislation."

Mr. Concil said that when the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, first officially proposed the legislation in 2001, it explicitly cited "a difference" between long delays and cancellations because delays are often beyond an airline's control.

Mr. Simpson in the European Parliament said the court ruling is "well within the scope and the spirit of the law." He said the legislature is likely to include the court ruling in any revision of the rule. "I think the members will look to tighten the regulation, not slacken it," Mr. Simpson said.

Airline officials are trying to prevent that by arguing that competition already creates strong incentives to provide good customer service, and that delays or cancellations are very costly to carriers. "What airlines need to do is explain to the regulators what we do in delay situations," said Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary-general of the Association of European Airlines, the co-sponsor of Wednesday's conference.
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