Tarmac Delays Drop, Cancellations Steady in June

Opponents of the Department of Transportation's (DOT) tarmac delay rules have long predicted a sort of aviation-industry doomsday as the result of the policy. It's too soon to tell whether they're right or wrong, but the latest DOT numbers (for June) suggest the apocalypse is holding off, at least for now.

Year over year, the DOT says three-hour tarmac delays all but vanished, while cancellations held steady. Tarmac delays dropped from 278 in June 2009 to just three in June 2010, and 1.5 percent of all flights were cancelled in June 2010, the same percentage as in June 2009.

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That said, cancellations did rise from May, 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent. Tarmac delays were essentially unchanged (five in May, three in June).

Still, the DOT is all too eager to show off its straight-A report card.

What to make of this news? It's a good sign, but just as it's too soon to write off warnings from opponents of the policy, it's far too early to declare the DOT's rules a success. The policy can only be evaluated on the basis of its consistency—a full year of data, in my opinion. That said, these early returns are cause for optimism that the rules can both decrease tarmac delays without causing severe side effects elsewhere.

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