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.