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Consumer Advocate Fights Airline ExemptionsMarch 22, 2010 By: George Dooley
FlyersRights.org, a major airline passenger rights advocate, said it strongly opposes the Department of Transportation (DOT) granting any exemption for airlines seeking a change from DOT rules on tarmac delays. While focused on delays at New York’s JFK, the DOT policy will impact air travel nationwide.
In a filing with the DOT, Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org, said the organization has reviewed the requests of JetBlue and Delta Air Lines for a temporary exemption from the DOT’s newly-promulgated regulation, Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, best known as the Tarmac Delay rule.
“In brief, the airlines are asking the Secretary of Transportation, who has statutory authority to protect airline passengers, to give those airlines Federal permission to keep their passengers stranded for more than three hours on taxiways at JFK because airlines have arrogantly overscheduled operations beyond the capacity of the JFK runway system during this temporary period,” Hanni said.
The rule will require U.S. airlines serving JFK to comply and adhere to a contingency plan that the requesting airlines will not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours or, in the case of international flights, for a determined period of time.
The airlines requested this exemption from April 29, when the new regulation becomes effective, until November, the estimated period of time during which Runway 13R-31L (“Bay Runway”) at JFK will continue to be closed for reconstruction.
“FlyersRights.org strongly opposes DOT’s granting any exemption from this regulation to these or to any other airlines serving JFK,” Hanni said. “This over scheduling is possible because the FAA Administrator, who reports to the DOT Secretary, has failed to require the airlines serving JFK to reduce their scheduled operations there to avoid multi-hour departure delays before takeoff during the Bay Runway reconstruction period."
FlyersRights said the DOT Secretary should deny these airline requests out of hand and direct FAA Administrator Babbitt to meet promptly with the airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JFK’s operator, to require the airlines to realistically schedule airline operations correlated to available JFK runway capacity during this construction period.
“Airline passengers should not have to endure multi-hour delays on JFK’s taxiways because the FAA refuses to manage “flow control” over the ground movements of aircraft scheduled for departure,” Hanni said.
FlyersRights said it has recommended for years that FAA’s air traffic controllers at congested airports like JFK should be required to prohibit airlines from pushing their aircraft back from the gate when an unreasonably long taxiway delay before takeoff is inevitable. “FAA has resisted, not wanting to preclude the airlines from using those taxiways as passenger parking lots,” Hanni said.