How Long Can an Airline Keep You on The Tarmac

Those traveling by air have heard the terrifying tales from others who haven’t personally experienced it. The aircraft has landed but hasn’t reached the terminal, or it has taxied away from the gate but is still stranded on the tarmac for hours due to inclement weather, a mechanical problem, or some obscure airline rule. In addition to the passengers and flight crew’s growing impatience, these delays frequently result in shortages of food, water, fresh air, and proper restroom facilities.

One of the worst things about flying might be tarmac delays. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a tarmac delay occurs when an aircraft is either taking off or has just landed and passengers are not given the chance to disembark. Statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that this year at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, there have been 678 tarmac waits longer than an hour, 62 longer than two hours, and one longer than three hours.

A representative for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport emailed The Charlotte Observer, saying, “Air traffic control issues, weather, aircraft maintenance issues, and security issues are just a few of the reasons that cause traffic delays.” There are regulations that airlines must abide by to guarantee your comfort whether you become stranded on an aircraft owing to bad weather or technical difficulties. Here are the legal limits on how long airlines can keep you on the tarmac, as well as the services they must offer if they do.

How Much Time Can You Have on The Tarmac by Airlines?

Airlines are allowed to detain you on a domestic trip for up to three hours before they have to “begin to move the airplane to a location where passengers can safely get off,” according to USDOT. Airlines are obligated to release passengers after four hours while flying internationally.

These guidelines exclusively cover tarmac delays that take place at airports in the United States. According to USDOT, there are times when the deadlines can be extended for the sake of safety, security, or air traffic control. Airlines are not obligated to allow passengers back on the aircraft if they choose to disembark during a tarmac delay, according to USDOT. If the flight departs without you, you may have to find another place to travel and get in touch with the airline to arrange for the return of your checked baggage.

Are Airlines Required to Serve Food During a Tarmac Delay?

USDOT states that for the first two hours of a tarmac delay, airlines are required to give you water and a snack, but they are not required to serve full meals. If food and water cannot be supplied for safety or security concerns, that is the sole situation in which airlines are exempt from this obligation.

Airlines must supply food and water, as well as functional restrooms, comfortable cabin temperatures, and sufficient medical treatment in case of emergency, according to USDOT.

Tarmac Delays: Act Immediately

Make your voice known if the airline failed to fulfill its tarmac delay regulations and you were aboard an aircraft that became stuck on the ground. For information about making a formal complaint, give the airline a call or visit their website. To find out more about the federal tarmac delay regulations, see the U.S. Department of Transportation’s official website.

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