JetBlue Fined For Not Telling Passengers They Can Exit A Plane Stuck Indefinitely At The Gate

Know your rights, airplane passengers! If you’re stuck at the gate waiting to take off, you do not have to just sit there and take it, according to the Department of Transportation’s rules. JetBlue is on the line for $90,000 after failing to inform passengers that they were allowed to get off a plane stuck at the gate for hours at John F. Kennedy Airport in March.

Sure, $90,000 is a drop in the bucket for JetBlue, but at issue here is that the airline never informed passengers that they didn’t have to be sitting around waiting with no information as to what was going on. It’s the first time the airline has been in trouble for violating the new passenger bill of rights that was instituted last August.

Here’s what JetBlue should have done: When a plane is sitting for at least 30 minutes after its scheduled departure time, the airline is required to notify passengers that they’re allowed to leave the plane, and then repeat that announcements for every 30 minutes after. That didn’t happen.

Instead, the plane was supposed to leave JFK at 7:30 p.m. ET for San Francisco, and didn’t leave until 9:55 p.m., reports CNNMoney.

“Airlines may not leave passengers stranded indefinitely aboard an aircraft, whether on the tarmac or at the gate, and passengers must be told if they are able to leave the plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement about the fine.

The companion part to that rule was instituted first, and said that passengers can’t sit on a domestic flight on the tarmac for more than three hours without returning to the gate to let passengers deplane if they wish.

JetBlue is promising to keep passengers in the loop from now on.

“Our policy regarding onboard ground delays, outlined in our Bill of Rights, is industry-leading,” said Tamara Young, a corporate communications manager for JetBlue. “However, we did not provide our customers with regular updates in this instance. This is not an example of the JetBlue experience. For this, we fully acknowledge our fault and will comply with the DOT ruling. We now have a solid plan in place.”

But of course, even if you have the right to exit the plane, don’t just bust open an emergency exit and flee. That’s frowned upon, to say the least.

JetBlue fined $90K for violating passenger rights [CNNMoney]

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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Honest question: If they get off, must they be allowed back on, or is it a “get off at your own risk” kind of thing?

    • That guy. says:

      You mean if you get off, then all of a sudden they are like, “Okay, we are taking off now, buckle up!” and not wait for you to get back on?

      • Pagan wants a +1 button says:

        I was wondering that, too. I could just see passengers getting off the plane for a quick smoke or a run to the john and then coming back to see the plane gone with no warning. Do they take the time to do the boarding process all over again?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Pretty much. They can let you off, but aren’t required to wait for you to get back on. From a business perspective, I get that they want to be there no longer than is required, so as soon as they get permission to leave they want to right away.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      According to what every gate agent will tell you, they can’t take off without you if you have checked luggage onboard. Passengers have to fly with their luggage. They would have to remove it first.

      Of course that’s a lie, because if that were true there would never be any way to get delayed luggage to the final destination. But that’s what they’ll tell you anyway.

      • etz says:

        I think they’re more lax on that these days now that the TSA supposedly screens all the checked luggage. I’ve recently flown where my bag went and I didn’t. The staff flat out told me that my bag would go regardless.

      • Quake 'n' Shake says:

        I’ve never heard that. Heck, once I had a flight from Boston to DFW (connecting to Tucson) cancelled. American rebooked me on a much later flight, but forwarded my bags ahead. They were to be put on my connecting flight to Tucson.
        Long story short, my 2nd AA flight got cancelled and I wound up taking America West via Las Vegas. It was when AA went to retrieve my bags that we discovered they’d been forwarded.
        I should add however that this occurred prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

    • thomwithanh says:

      They usually ask you to remain in the gate area so they can reboard at a moments notice.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      That was my first thought, too.

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      They must be allowed back in, however they’re not required to hold up the flight while they wait for your ass to mosey on back from the food court. When they announce that you can get off the plane, I’ve always heard it prefaced with a “Please remain in the gate area as we can be taking off any time” or some other words to that effect.

    • maeve728 says:

      This happened to me in July on a Jetblue coincidentally. There were weather delays/closing of the airport and runways temporarily. Well our runway shut down were were sitting there for about 45 mins not moving (they kept us updated after 20 minutes of sitting without moving though). After the 45 minute mark they announced that anyone who wanted to get off could do so they just had to inform a flight attendant and we would return to the gate and you would be let off. But they also very explicitly stated multiple times that if you wanted off you were not getting back on because anyone left on would go back to waiting in line for the runway to open again.

      The people who wanted off got off and we returned to the runway and after a 15 minute wait the runway opened again and we took off.

  2. nodaybuttoday says:

    I experienced this at JFK on Jet Blue a few years ago, pre passenger rights. It made me never want to travel with Jet Blue again. We were stuck for two hours on the tarmac leaving and one and half hours coming back with no air. I ended up getting sick probably because it was so hot in the plane I was sweating and then went outside to 30 degree weather.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Temperature change like that doesn’t make you sick. You just got sick b/c you got exposed to XYZ virus/bacteria.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        No, but adverse conditions like that can lower your resistance to said bacteria/viruses.

  3. Scooter McGee says:

    The only time I’ve ever been told this was when I was diverted to Louisville on my way home because of storms in Indianapolis. We sat there for two hours, plenty of time to get a rental car and make the drive, but we had no idea how long it would be. We were welcome to get off the little regional jet, but encouraged to stay near the gate. Since it was after 11pm and we were told the only things open in the terminal were the restrooms and vending machines, I stayed on the plane.

    That time we were delayed three hours because of a delays with deicing equipment would have been nice.

  4. wwwww says:

    If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

  5. elangomatt says:

    So does that 90k get divied up and sent back to the passengers that had to sit on the plane for over two hours? I thought not.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      My sentiments exactly. Fines like this should get parceled out to the affected customers.

  6. ospreyguy says:

    Several years ago I was stuck on a flight at DFW in 112 degree heat. The plane was one away from the terminal so there was no A/C and it was insane. Has the laws been in effect then I would have gotten off and walked back to the terminal but they wouldn’t let me out. There was almost a riot before they got us off the ground.

  7. Geekybiker says:

    Airlines solution to this is to back the plane out of the gate by 2-3 feet so its “departed ontime”. Then you get wait the same amount of time, but now without AC or the ability to get up since the plane might be moving.

    • etz says:

      For real. Last week we pull away from the gate, only to immediately be told that we were like #40 in line for takeoff. Something about how the airport had been shut down due to a presidential aircraft movement and so all the flights were backed up. Clearly they knew about this well in advance, but it’s easier to just leave us out on the taxiway.

  8. madrigal says:

    My flight was diverted on Saturday, and they let us get off the plane. We had to take our boarding passes with us. They made an announcement to get back on, and they looked at our boarding passes when we got back on (they did not scan them). When I sat down, it was another 15-20 minutes before the plane door was shut.

  9. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I really should not read these airline horror stories before I go somewhere.

  10. gaya2081 says:

    I sat on a plan at the gate for 2.5 hours earlier this year and they never made that announcement. Weather delays due to lightening and the flight was already 1.5 hour delay for other reasons. I could have driven to where I was going faster than it took me to actually get there (flight from Philadelphia to Allentown, usually ~20 minute flight).

  11. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    Sadly alot of women can’t accept a genuine compliment these days without thinking someone is a creeper.

  12. Marine2531 says:

    2 years ago I was on a Continental flight from Newark to Las Vegas. The weather that day was terrible. Heavy downpours and very high winds. My flight was scheduled to leave at 1205pm. We were all surprised when the flight started to board like it normally would. Everyone is on board, the pilot comes on the PA that we’re ready to push back. We did. All of about 10 feet. We then sat in the airplane for the next hour without moving. Then we finally taxied and stayed on a taxi way for another hour. They we started taxiing again and finally took off. 2 1/12 hours total in the plane. They comped us Direct TV for the flight. The captain came on every 30 minutes or so to give us an update. They had only been using 1 runway that day and all departing and arriving traffic was using it. The captain actually said at one point “We know this has been an inconvenience and you guys have been great so far. Please try to keep it that way and not become rude with each other and the crew.” Not one peep was said by anyone on that plane the entire time we were sitting. Everyone just seemed to enjoy their direct TV (which was spotty due to the weather, but still worked) and kept to themselves. I think the fact that the captain and crew were attentive to us and kept us in the loop it made everyone feel a little at ease with the whole situation.

  13. FreddyJohnson says:

    Just flew out on a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. It was a 767 and was delayed an hour in AMS. There was no announcement, other than the captain saying there was a problem with an engine. It took an hour to fix. On the way back to Amsterdam three weeks later, it must have been the same 767 because we waited more than an hour at MSP for a problem with the engine. Again, this time on the US side, there was no announcement, other than the pilot saying they needed some techs to check it out.

    There was never any announcement at 30 minutes or an hour that we had a right to deplane.

  14. Difdi says:

    The thing about being stranded in a plane is, if it’s not an emergency then OF COURSE the airline can provide things like air conditioning, snacks, water, etc.

    If it is an emergency then OF COURSE they can’t provide those things…but that’s also why they call the inflatable slides emergency slides.