Air travel is proving to be a lengthy and frustrating experience for U.S. flight consumers in 2023. Certainly, in recent history, travel commuters have seen nothing like it.
Take a four-day snapshot of U.S. air travel from June 24 to June 27, 2023.
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From June 24-27, 31,850 U.S. flights were delayed across the nation – that’s about 33% of all U.S. flights in that time period.
The delay hike during that period represented an increase of 25% from the same time period in 2022. Yet matched against the same time period in 2019, air travel delays rose by a staggering 374%, according to data from CBS News and FlightAware.
All that time waiting on the tarmac may be taking a toll on air travelers, but those travelers have some recourse. Maybe even more than they think.
“A tarmac delay occurs when an airplane on the ground is either awaiting takeoff or has just landed and passengers do not have the opportunity to get off the plane,” the U.S. Department of Transportation stated on its website.
If that scenario happens to you, know that you have the US DOT calls “tarmac rights.”
Airlines have a time limit on tarmac flight occupancy. Any flight leaving from a U.S. airport has to get passengers off the flight before three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights. For landing flights, the same time limit applies – no more than three hours on the ground for U.S. flights and four hours for overseas flight arrivals. But remember, airlines don’t have to allow you to return to the same aircraft once they leave, nor are they obligated to offload their luggage right away. Air travelers who deplane will need to contact the airline for luggage return at a later date.Airlines have to provide food and drink during tarmac delays. Travelers might be given some food – like an energy bar – after two hours on a grounded airplane. The same goes for drinking water, too. Once the aircraft starts taxiing on the runway, the clock starts ticking again until the flight captain determines it’s safe for the flight crew to serve food and water.Once the plane is cleared for safety reasons, passengers have the right to deplane. When an airline determines a grounded flight is safe and secure, the airline must notify travelers they have the right to get off the flight and get them safely to the terminal. Ancillary rights. Flight consumers grounded on the tarmac also have additional rights, including working toilets, comfortable cabin air temperatures, and access to quality medical services if and when needed.