The airlines need more time to implement the three-hour tarmac delay rule ordered by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) said. Mitchell warned that the three-hour rule may be unworkable in New York area airports and create chaos for business travelers. He urged a “sincere, long-lasting and productive conversation about passenger rights and customer service“ as well as communication and collaboration between aviation stakeholders.
Mitchell praised DOT Secretary Ray LaHood’s bold leadership but questioned the airlines ability to comply with the four-month deadline. The DOT urged a three-hour deplanement rule, a $27,500 per passenger maximum fine and 120 days for implementation.
“Without more time for implementation-planning, chaos will likely reign this summer for business travelers, meeting attendees and leisure travelers alike,” Mitchell said. “At the New York City-area airports, for example, the three-hour rule will be unworkable without serious reengineering efforts including reducing schedules, deploying larger aircraft, moving demand to non-peak periods, shifting flights to secondary airports and radically adjusting policies, processes and practices. Given that New York airports are directly or indirectly responsible for 75 percent of delays across the entire U.S. system, fundamental changes in New York will necessarily impact airlines’ schedules throughout U.S. domestic and international systems. Essentially, airlines will have to take a total systems-view as they reconfigure their approach to the business.
“However, before such a radical makeover can progress and be finalized there must be collaboration, buy-in and decisions made by airport authorities, TSA, FAA, Customs, unions and local law enforcement," Mitchell continued. "Airlines cannot unilaterally implement this 3-hour rule. This portion of the process alone will take considerable time to produce decisions sufficient for airlines to complete their reengineering work. In BTC’s view, airlines should be given 12 months, and certainly no fewer than 9 months, to collaborate with stakeholder organizations, plan their changes and implement them. All of this has to be navigated in an ever-shifting aviation system security environment, as the Christmas near-calamity at Detroit and Sunday’s fiasco at Newark Airport remind us.”
Among the BTC’s recommendations are the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) taking a leadership role with support from the governors of New Jersey and New York as well as the mayor of New York City. "PANYNJ needs to make the case for DOT-administered and Department of Justice-monitored meetings among airlines to adjust schedules. The alternative is chaos and further erosion of business travel and tourism,” Mitchell said.