Continental announced it has begun instructing its pilots to return to the gate after two hours on the tarmac so as to avoid the Department of Transportation's (DOT) penalty for excessive tarmac delays. The DOT's rules, which take effect April 29, will levy a $27,500-per-passenger fine when flights sit on the tarmac for three hours or more.
Continental has been one of the more outspoken critics of the DOT's rules.
According to the Associated Press (AP), "Continental said that pilots of flights delayed two hours, who don't expect to take off before the three-hour deadline, will 'reposition the aircraft at either a remote area or gate, where customers may deplane safely and securely.' It said the new procedure began on Thursday."
The airline's announcement comes the day after US Airways said it will turn around after two-and-a-half hours on the tarmac.
I'm getting pretty tired of the airlines making such a big deal out of the DOT's rules. Reader Merivel summed up my feelings perfectly: "It's moronic for the airlines to act like this legislation is such a big deal. This rule is only for extreme circumstances—delays of 3 hours or more only happened 0.1 percent of the time in 2009 (I can't remember the precise number) [Editor's note: It was 0.01 percent!] It's a huge problem for passengers when it occurs but it's not very common and the airlines need to stop whining and threatening. They've had every opportunity to address passengers' rights over the years; thank god Congress finally took action!"
Amen. Less whining, more action!