Long Airport Tarmac Delays Continue Decline, Only One Cited in November

Good news from the statisticians at the Department of Transportation: There was just a single tarmac delay over three hours in November 2011, which includes the most recently collected numbers from major U.S. airlines.

Passenger ‘Horror Stories’ Prompted Change

Nightmare Flights and the DOT’s 3-Hour Rule

This continues the downward trend of lengthy flight delays that came to the public’s attention after reports about several passenger ordeals – nightmare flight delays of up to nine hours or more – began making national news.

The government finally decided enough was enough in April of 2010 and began issuing fines to airlines whose planes sat on tarmacs beyond the three-hour limit – to the tune of $27,500 per passenger. That went into effect in April of 2010, and was expanded last summer to include international flights.

Past Tarmac Delay Numbers

Here is a sampling of statistics for flights delayed three hours or more, from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS):

  • Nov. 2011 – 1 flight
  • Feb. 2010 – 60 flights
  • July 2009 – 161 flights
  • June 2009 – 268 flights
  • Dec. 2008 – 183 flights

Read 5 Surprising Things about Weather and Flights

Note the heavy volume of delayed flights in 2009’s June and July. As pilots know, the summer months can be much worse for weather-related problems than any winter snowstorm.


Published: January 12, 2012