What the Brave Miners have in Common with Some Airline Passengers

Miners Freed

Talk about an incredible story: 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days – and finally, the dramatic rescue. Awesome and heartwarming.

And familiar to some airline passengers – although on a much smaller scale.

Airline Passengers Trapped on the Tarmac

I’m talking about passengers who’ve been trapped on the tarmac – in some cases, trapped on planes for 9 hours or more – while their flights go nowhere.

No, you can’t equate being stuck on a plane for a few hours with the horrendous ordeal of those Chilean miners – but the air traveling public doesn’t expect any real “ordeal” when it comes to flying – and some passengers tell us their experiences of being trapped on planes could be quite harrowing if not downright nasty.

Take Our Flight Delays Poll Below

So it was no surprise that when the Dept. of Transportation’s new “3 hour rule” went into effect earlier this year, it was hailed by travelers as a huge step forward. Here’s what it was designed to do:

  • Prevent planes from idling on the tarmac more than 3-hours
  • For delays longer than 3 hours, planes must return to the gate and let passengers off

However, some airline executives said this would just create more flight cancellations. So did it?

Apparently not.

3 Hour Rule Seems to be Working

No, there were not more flight cancellations – not according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Their numbers for August of 2010 show that the cancellation rate for reporting airlines was just 1% of their scheduled flights – precisely the same rate that we saw in August of 2009.

More to the point is the number of flights that were delayed for three hours or more, and here is the comparison:

Flights with Tarmac Delays Longer than 3 Hours

These stats may surprise you:

  • August 2009 – 66 flights
  • August 2010 – 1 flight*

*That one long-delayed flight this past August? It involved a United plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico awaiting take-off to Dulles International in Washington on Aug. 5. We suspect weather was to blame.

The BTS also points out that, “There were only 8 total tarmac delays of more than three hours from May through August of 2010 – compared to 529 during the same period of 2009.”

Again – just to be clear – no, you can’t equate being stuck on a plane for a few hours with the miners’ ordeal and thank goodness they’re free now. Still, it’s nice to think you won’t have to worry (much) about undergoing any sort of “ordeal” of your own, the next time you step on a plane.

Passenger Poll on Flight Delays

Take a moment to let us know about any ordeals you’ve undergone.

Video Image from CNN

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Published: October 14, 2010