Were you unlucky enough to be a passenger aboard one of those nightmare flights diverted to Hartford, Conn., last fall?
DOT: No More ‘Nightmare’ Flights
Some passengers wound up sitting on the tarmac for seven hours – and more – because there were no gates available thanks to the unexpected arrivals of dozens of other planes, all diverted to avoid a freak October snowstorm. The Department of Transportation has told airports they have to fix this, and the deadline is May 14.
‘Diverted’ Airports to Provide Plans for Passengers
That’s when all sizeable U.S. airports have to turn in new plans meticulously outlining what they’ll do in event of future emergencies to deal with an unexpected influx of passengers and planes. The plans must include details on three key procedures:
- How will airports get passengers off planes
- How will airports share facilities and make gates available for unexpectedly diverted flights
- How will airports provide a sterile area for passengers who’ve not yet cleared customs
Getting passengers off planes is the big one, especially when they’re stuck on the tarmac because all the other gates are filled. Or maybe there’s an unused gate but it’s leased by another carrier that doesn’t want to give it up in case one of its own flights gets diverted.
Then there’s the matter of unanticipated arrivals of international flights to small airports. These facilities need to find room for such passengers inside the airport, yet not allow them roam too far since they haven’t been cleared by customs and there are often no such personnel at smaller airports.
New Plans Similar to ‘3-Hour Rule’ for Tarmac Delays
It’s a challenge, but the DOT does not want a repeat of all those passengers sitting on the tarmac for hours with no access to an airport. It’s why the department created the 3-hour rule which went into effect in April 2010 and calls for fines of $27,500 per passenger whenever an airline allows a plane to idle on the tarmac for more than three hours.