New rules could ease discomfort of stranded airline passengers - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New rules could ease discomfort of stranded airline passengers

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

by Brian Mooar

WASHINGTON (NBC) - As the holiday travel rush takes off, the government is laying down the law with the nation's airlines and promising passengers they won't be stranded on the tarmac.

"You will not sit on an airplane for more than 3 hours and if you do, there will be very tough penalties against the airlines," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Airlines will also have to guarantee food, water and operating bathrooms.

But not quite yet, the rule doesn't take effect for 120 days.

Stranded passengers have been complaining for years but anger hit a boiling point this past August.

That's when 47 passengers were locked up overnight in a plane that diverted to a closed airport in Rochester, Minnesota.

"Bathroom broke, no food, no water, crying babies and we weren't let off until about six thirty in the morning" said stranded passenger Link Christian.

Continental and three other airlines were fined $175,000.

Christian says this new rule will take a lot of the anxiety out of flying or waiting to fly.

"I just think it's going to be terrifically reassuring to passengers, I think it's going t make them safer and create situation that's more stable and tolerable for passengers."

The Air Transport Association, which represents the major US airlines, released a statement saying, "We will comply with the new rule even though we believe it will lead to unintended consequences - more canceled flights and greater passenger inconvenience."

WASHINGTON (AP) - There may be fewer horror stories from now on involving passengers who've been stranded for hours at a time on planes waiting to take off.

The Obama administration is placing a three-hour limit. After that, the passengers have to be allowed to get off. The only exceptions are in cases of safety or security, or if air traffic control says returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

The rules also require airlines to provide food and water for passengers within two hours of a plane being delayed on a tarmac, and to maintain operable lavatories.

From January to June this year, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours, their passengers kept on board.

The new regulations go into effect in 120 days. Airlines would be fined $27,500 per passenger for each violation of the three-hour limit.

Airlines have strongly opposed a time limit. They say forcing planes to return to gates so that passengers can get off could cause more problems than it cures. They predict more flights will be canceled, further delaying passengers.

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