Transportation Department Backs Deplaning

A report from Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel III hailed deplaning as a best practice worthy of uniform implementation by all airlines.

The best practices we identified during our review are not all inclusive, and the airlines or airports should consider incorporating them into their ongoing operations, especially the best practice of setting the maximum amount of time that passengers will remain on-board aircraft before deplaning.

The report contains a series of common-sense suggestions that will undoubtedly infuriate airlines. Among the suggestions: cancel flights ahead of blizzards, change the schedules of flights that depart or arrive late more than 40% of the time, and abandon gate departure time as the metric for on-time performance in favor of data that capture all instances of tarmac stranding.

Scovel stopped short of explicitly endorsing the Passenger’s Bill of Rights, but it takes no giant leap of logic to realize that if deplaning is a best practice, then uniform implementation can be easily achieved by an act of Congress.

Congress took a small step in that direction last week with the House passage of the Passenger’s Bill of Rights. A manager’s amendment added previously absent deplaning conditions, though the language is mushy at best:

(2) CONTENTS- An emergency contingency plan submitted by an air carrier for an airport under subsection (a) shall contain a description of how the air carrier will–

(A) provide food, water that meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.), restroom facilities, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers onboard an aircraft at the airport that is on the ground for an extended period of time without access to the terminal;

(B) allow passengers to deplane following excessive delays; and

(C) share facilities and make gates available at the airport in an emergency.

The stronger Senate version mandates deplaning after three hours. Still, the House language provides a better starting point for negotiations with the Senate when the bill eventually goes to conference. The Senate version has been placed on the Senate calendar and needs only the Leadership’s nod to proceed to the floor for a vote.

Actions Needed to Improve Airline Customer Service and Minimize Long, On-Board Delays [DOT Office Of The Inspector General]


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  1. ptkdude says:

    Who knew Thurston Howell the Third actually had some sense!

  2. HawkWolf says:

    I like the abandonment of gate departure time. That seems like fraud. “We’re on time!” four hours later… the plane takes off!


    I seem to recall the reason that is done is so that employees are paid from when the plane leaves the gate, not when it takes off.

    That’s fraud, or corruption, or something Not Good.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @HawkWolf: Not paying employees when they are working because they are techincally ‘off the clock’ would be technically illegal (but a common practice at many retailers), and is abused by employers the world over by making employees ‘salaried’ to remove any expectations they might have of ‘overtime.’

    But to comment on the proposal, you know that the airlines and their lobbyists will water down any regulation to the point where the airline makes the call as to what defines an ‘excessive delay.’ At which point there will be no such thing.
    “Well, yes I know the plane was sitting there for six hours, but the tower assured us we would get departure clearance any minute!!”

    I have no illusions whatsoever that any legislation or self-imposed restrictions will do the tiniest bit of good. So long as it’s the only game in town, the ones who run the game make the rules. Sorry I have no sunshine/smoke up your tush solution or proposal, but that’s the real world, kids.
    Personally, I am avoiding air travel at all costs until we can get over this Fatherland security/TSA we-know-what’s-best bullshit. “Airport security” only serves to aggravate consumers, it’s not circumventing “terrorists” no matter what flavor the gubbamint/media want to shove down your throat.

  4. timmus says:

    I wonder if I was skipping school when “disembarking” became “deplaning”.

  5. timmus says:

    Also I agree with what Doctor Cos said… I, too, am avoiding all air travel and am factoring in more long distance driving in my future car purchases. It’s not just the humiliating security dog & pony show but the piss-poor attitudes that airlines have towards taking care of their customers and their luggage.

  6. tcm22 says:

    I appear to be one of the few Libertarian minded people on this site who doesn’t support gov’t intervention as remedy for consumer complaints.

    This is much different. Despite the deregulation of routes and price structures years ago — a very good thing that lowered air travel costs across the board by a huge margin — the air traffic system remains in control of the Federal Government.

    In the final analysis regulation of air travel is a legitimate federal function and therefore Congress and the FAA have a responsibility to fix this mess.

    It comes down to incentives. I don’t claim to understand it, but the current system of business incentives for the airline industry has made it cost effective to leave people crammed on board cramped airplanes for extended periods of time. To hear the FAA and airline reps publicly proclaim it has to do with the weather (like that’s a new problem) or the old air traffic system does nothing to remedy the fact that people get stuck sitting on planes sometimes for 3 times longer than the original flight.

    Regardless of the causes of the problems or the state of the air traffic system, at some point the FAA and airlines have to have a system where they can open the doors and let people off the airplanes. In my mind, an hour is too long without some resolution.

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @tcm22: You’re hardly the only one. Every time there’s a story about possible government intervention in anything, there’s a resounding cry of LOOK OUT FOR MOMMY GOVERNMENT.

  8. jamar0303 says:

    @doctor_cos: and what about international travel? Take a ship?