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]