How long can an airline keep you on a plane during Tarmac Delay?

Nov 30, 2019

You have been on a tarmac (also known as an Airport apron) and have suffered flight delays from the airline. Here are some important points on what to do if you encounter tarmac flight delays.

Have you ever received someone at the airport and it has been delayed? Then you must have heard or suffered some of the consequences of Tarmac delay. Many of you have heard about this term but very few really know what is the true meaning of it.

It is the area of an airport where an airplane is tarmac or parked. What are your rights as a passenger? And what are the responsibilities of the airline? In this article, we will explain some of the most important information so that you know what should you do if you’re sitting on the tarmac delay.

What is the Tarmac Delay rule?

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) of the United States, Tarmac Delay occurs when airplanes keep passengers inside the plane for a certain time. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving or you’ve already reached your destination. If the plane is parked and hasn’t reached the airport runway and you are not allowed to get on or off the plane you are facing a Tarmac Delay.

The DOT says that tarmac delay only applies to “Covered Carrier”. This means that this law can only be applied to airlines with aircraft with a capacity greater than 30 passengers.

Rules on Tarmac Delay

The rules for the tarmac delay are simple. However, it’s necessary to know them in order to demand your right as a passenger. To start, you need to know how long the airline can maintain the status of DEPARTING or ARRIVING at the domestic or international airport, depending on the situation, they must inform you if the flight is delayed or canceled.

In both cases, it’s stipulated that the airlines can only keep passengers for certain time limits, 3 hours in this status when it comes to domestic flights within the US and 4 hours for international flights before deplaning passengers from parking lots with transportation.

If the waiting time exceeds 2 hours the airline must provide food and water to passengers, functional bathrooms, and medical care in case of an emergency. If this doesn’t happen, you can ask the flight attendant to provide them. In addition, the airline is responsible for giving you an update on the situation every 30 minutes.

Something important to note is that the rules on Tarmac Delay only apply to flights from the US.

Exceptions of Tarmac Delay

There are some exceptions that can lengthen the wait on Tarmac. If the air-traffic controllers indicate that passengers should not leave the aircraft if there is a danger or for security reasons, the waiting time may be extended.

Leaving the plane on Tarmac

One of the most important things to know is that during the delay if you get off the plane, the airline can depart without the need to get you back on the plane, nor do they have the responsibility to offload your luggage. This means that the plane will leave you and take your bags. You will need to contact the airline later to recover it.

If waiting time during the tarmac delay exceeds 3 hours on a domestic flight and 4 hours on an international flight and the airline has not given you the option to deplane then the airline must pay a fine of $27,500 per passenger.

If the airline doesn’t comply with these conditions according to the law then you should contact the airline directly by phone or email informing them of the situation.

They have 60 days to respond and if they do not, we recommend that you make your complaint directly with the Transportation Department.

A few more things to know

It’s important to clarify that the word tarmac is used to refer to the delay in the runway, but at the same time, it’s short for tarmacadam (road surfacing material) which is a type of pavement invented by Edgar Purnell. So, be careful when using the term.

Being stuck in Tarmac Delay can be very annoying and in some cases, it’s not the fault of the airline. however, it will never be the fault of the passengers. As responsible users, we inspire you to respect the law and motivate others to learn more about their rights as passengers in this situation.

Sachin Suryawanshi

Sachin Suryawanshi

Digital Marketing Consultant

Sachin Suryawanshi is Digital Marketing Consultant at Claim Flights. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology. He loves to explore new places and learn new things.

If your flight delays for more than 3 hours, or was canceled, you may be eligible for compensation up to €600 based on EU 261 rule.

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