Get Connected | Contact Us

Understanding the Tarmac Delay Rule

by Lux Joseph 18. January 2015

Every day we have nurses, physicians, and patients traveling to different parts of the world via commercial airlines.  We arrange travel for our clients on more than twenty airlines and in a single day we can have more than ten transports occurring simultaneously.  With this data, one can only imagine the number of delays that can occur since we are using commercial airlines. It is one of the challenges CME and other medical escort companies face however; it is one challenge that cannot be avoided. Sky Cap Corp, our in-house travel department, works tirelessly to ensure appropriate connection times for our escorts and patients, but one can never tell what type of delay may occur on daily basis due to weather, mechanical, air traffic, or even a strike by an aviation union. CME is fortunate that Sky Cap Corp is continuously monitoring our flights to ensure seamless transfers and if a delay is going to affect a transport a backup plan is in place.
 
If you are traveling alone or made your own arrangements you may be left out in the cold “figuratively speaking” in an event of a delay or cancelled flight. As a passenger it is important for you to understand your rights and what airlines are and are not responsible for. Recently the Transportation Department fined Southwest Airlines $1.6 million dollars for violations of the tarmac delay rule that occurred during a snowstorm in January 2014. But do you know that the tarmac delay rule is and what rights you have?


The Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings issued an announcement in 2011 that outlined the tarmac delay:
 
A reportable tarmac delay is a tarmac delay at a large, medium, small, or non-hub U.S. airport that lasts for more than three hours. The 3-hour limit begins when passengers no longer have the option to get off of the aircraft, which usually occurs when the doors of the aircraft are closed. However, if an aircraft is at the gate with the doors open, and passengers are not allowed off the aircraft, the time limit would start at the point when passengers were no longer permitted to deplane. If the flight that experienced the reportable tarmac delay is reported under the Airline Service Quality Reports required by 14 CFR Part 234, the data for that flight should be reported under Part 234 instead of Part 244.
 
In the final rule, we state that covered carriers should file Part 244 reports for any reportable tarmac delay of “three hours or more.” This standard is inconsistent with the tarmac delay contingency plan requirements under Part 259 and the existing reporting requirements of the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), both of which use a “more than three hours” standard. We intend to correct this inconsistency in a future rulemaking to make it clear that carriers do not need to file a report for a tarmac delay of exactly three hours. In the meantime, as a matter of enforcement policy, we will accept reports under Part 244 that meet the “more than three hours” criteria. For additional information, please refer to BTS Accounting and Reporting Directive No. 303A, issued on August 12, 2011.
 
Europe has a similar policy in place in regards to tarmac delays as well. Keep in mind though, delays due to weather does not require the airline to provide any particular compensation to passengers affected by weather related delays. Within the European Union, if a plane is boarded and sits on the tarmac for more than five hours, passengers will have the right to demand to be let off. If the tarmac delay is more than an hour, the airline must provide air conditioning, use of toilets and water.
 
In reference to recent events surrounding the Ebola virus the tarmac rules do not apply. In the event that a passenger on board an aircraft is suspected to have Ebola or another serious contagious virus or illness, passengers may be held on the plane to ensure health and safety policies are followed. No fines will be assessed to the airline. A safety relation or security related reasons are the only incidents that may exempt an airline from the hefty fine.
 
In the recent incident with Southwest, the assessed fine was much higher than previous incidents recorded by the DOT. The DOT advised this was due to the large number of passengers and flights that were affected. Southwest claimed that is was due to a shortage in staff, and the DOT advised there should be an appropriate amount of staff available as a contingency plan in the future to prevent this from happening again. Weather was a factor in this particular incident, but the DOT is making it very clear that they are serious about their rules and regulations. Southwest’s fine was more than the total amount of fines that have been issued since 2009 (5.24 million).
 
As a passenger on a commercial airline it is critical to understand that the tarmac delay rules don't just impact what happens when you're onboard a flight that's stuck at the gate. Airlines are required to post flight delay information on their websites for every domestic flight. You can even visit www.flightaware.com to see the statistics of on time arrival for a particular flight. You can compare delay trends flight-by-flight (and airline by airline) to lessen your chances of a lengthy delay.
 
If you are subject to a tarmac delay, we encourage you to call the airline or check their website to get information on filing a formal complaint. To learn more about the new federal tarmac delay rules, visit http://airconsumer.dot.gov/, the official site of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 still Looking for Answers

by Lux Joseph 28. March 2014

The statistics are that 1 in 1.2 million airplane flights involve an accident. Note that not all accidents are fatal. There is a 1 in 11 million chance that you will be killed in an airplane crash. However, 1 in 5,000 people die in a car crash. It appears as if the chances of losing your life when flying commercially are less likely than the chances of an individual dying in a car crash on their way to work. Nonetheless we still get in our car every morning and drive to work. For some reason the thought of a plane crash affects our nervous system much more than a car crash and especially after the recent news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, more passengers are uneasy with traveling by commercial airline.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues to remain missing. Recent search efforts have been able to narrow its possible disappearance to the Indian Ocean, but the search for wreckage and the black box continues. Not a single piece of wreckage has been identified. The search area recently changed according to Australian government to a new area that is approximately 1,150 miles west of Perth. The search zone that they have been searching for over a week now was 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, but has been unsuccessful.  The shift in area is based on additional analysis that show the aircraft was most likely traveling at higher speeds and therefore would not have been able to cover as much distance as original proposed. Even three weeks after the flight has going missing, the search has a long way to go. Not even a small amount of debris has been detected to generate a lead in the right direction. Obviously, updated information such as the search area is a step forward, but for many observers it appears we are still a long way from finding closure.

With the new search area, 10 aircraft and 6 ships have been deployed and back to square one, and the time allotted on the black box pingers is slowly fading away. Black boxes have been in place on airplanes since the late 1950s. Each commercial airline has two of them in place: a flight data recorder and a voice recorder. Even though they are orange in color, making them easy to spot in water, the device only has enough battery power to transmit a signal for 30 days. Therefore as we enter into early April, time is running out. The estimated crash date was March 8 so we are looking at April 7 as the date in which they would expire.

As the search continues, the cost of the finding the missing Malaysia Airlines Plane increases and at this point government funds are being used. Prior to this incident, Malaysia Airlines was struggling financially and it may even require the government to step in to save the company. In 2011 when the Air France flight 447 went down, the search efforts cost ½ million dollars per day. Finding wreckage is just the beginning phases of an incident like this. If the wreckage is found, additional resources and funds will need to be employed for investigating and dissecting the wreckage to find more answers to the many questions that are lingering amongst the public and government officials.

The news and media have made numerous speculations regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but it is important to look at the facts. As with any major incident that occurs it is important that a plan is in place of how to respond to the situation in an orderly fashion to ensure accurate information is provided. They are been many reports in regards to the way in which the family members of the passengers on MH 370 were communicated with in regards to the incident. Communication with next of kin is critical in an incident like this one. Treating them with respect and dignity is the relationship that needs to be made with family members. On February 24, 2014 the U.S. Department of Transportation fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to comply with the Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997. It is important for any company to follow and abide by all local, state, and federal laws. At Commercial Medical Escorts we have a plan in place should an incident like this occur during any of our medical transports.

Handling Changes in your Travel Plans

by Lux Joseph 6. July 2013

Summer is already here and so is one of the busiest travel times of the year. Whether you are looking to go on a summer vacation to Europe or in our case, bringing patients home that fell ill during their vacation travels flights are selling quickly and at a high rate. According to the latest Travelhorizons survey of 2,300 U.S. adults conducted by marketing services firm MMGY Global 70% of Americans plan to take at least one leisure trip between now and October 2013, compared to 65% in March 2007.  During your travels this summer, you hope that everything goes as planned, flights are not delayed or canceled, a natural disaster doesn’t hit, and that no other disruption happens to affect your journey. But what happens when something does happen to affect your travel? What are your rights as a traveler?

Being stranded at the airport during a natural disaster or any other related disruption causes frustration to you as the traveler. It is important to recognize that your ticket as a traveler represents a contract between you and the airline. Although airlines do not guarantee their schedules due to the large amount of unexpected challenges that can occur including weather, mechanical problems, and air traffic control delays, as part of a contract they must make reasonable efforts to fulfill their end of the bargain. Many airlines will do their best to re-accommodate you as schedules and availability permit, but waiting in that long line may limit your chance at the next soonest flight available.

As a traveler you must take control of the situation in a professional and responsible manner. At CME, we deal with cancelations and delays every week when transporting our patients back home.  Some tips that we have in regards to delays/cancelations include:

• Monitor you flight continuously- a great application to be used on your smart phone is Flight Aware. There are two applications, and the paid application shows real time updates including the connection times as flights are delayed

• Be respectful to the agent- it is not the agent’s fault that your flight is delayed or canceled. Although they represent the airline, they are not the cause so do not take the frustration out on them. The more courteous and polite you are the more likely they will do their best to find an alternate flight to meet your needs.

• Contacting the airline- if you are already at the airport, most likely you are standing in the long line to rebook your ticket. While in line, also contact the airline via their 1-800 number. In most cases if you are able to get in contact with an agent on the phone, they can at least make the changes and confirm you on a new flight so all you will need to do is have your new tickets issued. If you booked your flight with a travel agent, they can hold you on the next available flight as well

• Endorsing your ticket- you have finally reached the counter and the airline informs you that you cannot be rebooked until 2 days later. For most travelers, this would not be acceptable or reasonable. You can ask your airline to endorse your ticket on another carrier. Do the research and look at available flights on alternate carriers. The airline is not required to endorse your ticket, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. When an airline endorses another carrier, they are paying the other carrier to transport you to your destination.

• Understand the Department of Transportation (DOT) Rules- many times you may think everything is going as planned. You boarded your flight, listened to the flight briefing, are pushing back form the gate, and then are told then you are held on the tarmac for an infinite period of time. It is important to understand the rules set forth by the DOT and what the airlines a required to provide. The DOT prohibits airlines from keeping passengers on the tarmac for more than 3 hours on domestic flights unless the pilot otherwise feels there is a safely or security issue in. The airline is also required to provide food and water within two hours of being on the tarmac.

• Know the airline policy- no federal laws or requirements are in place that require airlines to provide any accommodation or meals due to delayed or canceled flights. Each airline does have its own policy and it is important to understand the policy so you do not look ignorant trying to demand something that you are not entitled to.

Cancelations and delays will always be a possibility when flying. Airlines are trying each and every day to seek ways to improve the system, but in most cases there are things that are out of their control. Being aware of your environment, rights as a passenger, and keeping composure, as a traveler will ensure a smooth journey to your destination.


© Commercial Medical Escorts. Optimized website design by MoreVisibility.