Airlines must let people go!

20090318_zaf_e47_884.jpgThe U.S. government has done something that consumers have been pushing them to do for years. The Transportation Department has ordered airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes to deplane after three hours.

Until now, airlines have had complete say-so as to when or if stranded passengers can deplane, no matter how many hours their plane sits in line on the tarmac. Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the three-hour limit and other new passenger protections long fought for by consumer advocates. This year, from January to June, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours, with passengers kept on board.

Under the new rule, airlines must provide food and water for passengers within two hours of a plane being delayed on a tarmac and maintain operable lavatories. They must also provide medical attention when necessary.

For those who remember the TV series LA Law, there was an apisode on this exact topic (“The Plane Mutiny”, 1989). One of the attorneys was stranded on the tarmac for hours and finally had to threaten a major lawsuit in order to get himself off the plane. Nice to know that the government has finally listened, even if it’s been quite a few years in the making.

This new rule takes effect in 120 days.

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