No one enjoys spending extra time at the airport because of flight delays. Yet, frequent commercial fliers have come to expect these periodic disruptions in their travel schedules.
What are the causes and regulations regarding tarmac delays, and the numerous advantages of private jet charter over commercial flying?
Cancelled airline flights, flight and tarmac delays can cause major headaches. Major carriers hit a record number of three-hour-plus tarmac delays in October 2011. This number exceeds federal limitation, but no fines have been issued thus far.
CAUSES OF TARMAC DELAYS
Flight delays can come from a number of different sources. Most delays involve either weather or maintenance incidents. But some commercial flight delays can be caused by completely unrelated issues, such as waiting for the plane of commercial passengers arriving on a connecting flight to land at the airport. Non-maintenance delays caused by the crew are another possibility. These flight delays lead to postponed boarding, flight cancellations, and planes loaded with passengers parked on the tarmac. Not to mention really frustrated and inconvenienced passengers.
Of course mechanical issues or crew delays can occur anywhere and anytime. Every area of the country experiences weather-related flight delays at some point. “Just some of the causes for tarmac and general flight delays/cancellations in 2011 included snow events in Texas and the Northeast, big storms in Chicago and New York, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and high wind conditions that forced diversions for planes bound to Los Angeles,” said Ed Martelle, a national spokesperson for a major carrier. “Every part of the country has times of the year when they are severely impacted by weather events.”
Another occurrence that causes tarmac delays which is fairly rare, but still does happen nonetheless from time to time, are TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that may be put in place by the FAA relating to security concerns at large, public events. For instance, this past weekend at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, the FAA actually placed a TFR that prohibited air traffic beginning two hours prior to the game and which extended two hours following the event as well.
Though the spike of commercial and private air traffic in and out of Indianapolis for the game and its surrounding events was handled quite well by both the Indianapolis International Airport (KIND) and the Eagle Creek Airpark Airport (KEYE), of course these temporary restrictions on aircraft takeoff can certainly cause lengthy tarmac delays regardless of where they occur, especially when they happen without any notice whatsoever, unlike a well-choreographed event planned many months in advance like the Super Bowl.
Due to increasing number of delays on the tarmac and other airline customer service issues, the Department of Transportation implemented regulations in April 2010 (and revised in August 2011). These regulations impose fines of $27,500 per passenger against any airline that leaves a plane stuck on a tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights.
However, it’s important to note that these penalties are not actually legislated into law. Advocate groups such as FlyersRights.org have argued that it’s important that legislation pending in Congress governing the Federal Aviation Administration include the tarmac rule, so that a future Transportation Department can’t simply rescind the current one. As of present, these protections are still not included.
Not surprisingly, the airlines have attempted to block the rule from the beginning, claiming that it would lead them to cancel more flights outright. The first fine of $900,000 was announced in November 2011 against American Eagle for tarmac delays at Chicago’s O’Hare airport during thunderstorms the previous May. It should also be noted that there have already been a significant number of instances where no fines have been issued whatsoever.
Despite the current rules, lengthy tarmac delays still occur. In one example, a passenger, Brent Stanley of Chicago, was stuck on an American Airlines flight home from Paris for more than seven hours when a snowstorm struck Bradley International Airport in Connecticut in October 2011. “They were completely unprepared,” Stanley says when describing his travel nightmare.
Although airlines are more likely to provide accommodations if they are responsible for the delay (as opposed to a reason beyond their control, such as a weather event), they are not contractually obligated to provide monetary compensation to passengers on a domestic flight that has been delayed or stranded on the tarmac. Each airline establishes its own policies for assisting delayed passengers. That’s why it’s important for passengers to do their own research into the terms and conditions, contract of carriage, and other similar information for the specific airline.
Passengers have few options when stranded in a plane that is parked on the tarmac. They must be updated on the status of the delay by the pilot captain once every 30 minutes when sitting aboard a plane parked on the tarmac, but this offers little solace to those stuck on a plane.
Regulations require airlines to provide food and water to passengers after sitting on a plane for two hours without being able to deplane, unless there are safety or security issues surrounding the incident (in which case these requirements do not apply). These long delays can still create shortages of water, food, and fresh air regardless, along with the increasing impatience of uncomfortable passengers.
The airline must also provide functioning lavatories and medical attention to any passengers in need. The instances where the most basic services could not be provided — the “nightmare scenario” as described above — have been widely circulated in the media.
NUMEROUS ADVANTAGES OF JET CHARTER AND SELECT A JET
Some airports are better equipped to handle these flight delays than others. Delays at slot-controlled and limited operations airports, such as O’Hare, LaGuardia, JFK or Washington National can be more far more disruptive because flights can’t be easily rescheduled. This means that these airports wish to avoid deplaning a flight at all costs, and passengers will often have reduced options to utilize other planes – often already filled – should they actually come back to the gate.
Luckily for private jet charter consumers, these issues facing commercial travelers are almost unheard of during their own flying experiences.
First, the ability to deplane is a very simple process for jet charter passengers except in the most extraordinary circumstances, and the much higher level of on-plane amenities and personalized service make any possible delays a far more comfortable experience.
Second, another huge advantage available to jet charter consumers is the use of smaller regional and private airports. The reduced traffic in most of these smaller airports can typically avoid tarmac delays all together, and provide the opportunity to take off almost immediately once issues are resolved.
And when flight delays are due to mechanical or maintenance issues, there are always additional aircraft options available to jet charter consumers, especially so with the clients of Select A Jet. Our experienced air charter agents will work to secure you an alternate aircraft immediately if the need should arise. You are usually alerted by the air charter agent of your flight, without a need for your direct involvement to initiate the process in any way. Your Select A Jet agent can also provide other options that use alternative airports that are not experiencing inclement weather or other delay conditions, and arrange transportation for you.
In other words, unlike commercial travel, where you are on your own and essentially at the mercy of the airline, with Select A Jet you have a personal representative working on your behalf. Your agent works diligently to ensure your timely and safe arrival at your destination, and with the minimal amount of inconvenience to you and your travel party.
This assistance can be invaluable to you and your organization when critical timelines, deadlines or vital business meetings are on the line.
When you book private jet charter services from Select a Jet, you can avoid the infuriating headaches, frustration and inconvenience caused by tarmac delays and flight delays. In other words, Select A Jet can provide you with the travel experience that you deserve.