The new tarmac delay rule goes into effect this week, and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has promised that the rule will be strongly enforced. Some passenger advocates have hailed the new rule as a landmark breakthrough. Some have even cheered the denial of airline requested exceptions for specific airports where delays will likely be beyond the airline’s control (JFK as an example). Leading the debate has been FlyersRights.org, the self-proclaimed “largest non-profit consumer organization representing airline passengers”. Well, they don’t represent me.
I have flown millions of miles, literally. I have flown every major airline in the world. I have flown in and out of more airports than I can recall. And yes, I have dealt with delays and cancellations and bad weather and emergency landings and long tarmac waits and mechanical problems and aborted take-offs and … you get the idea. I also know lots of people in the airline industry. Heck, I am on a first-name basis with multiple pilots, flight attendants, and airline representatives. So I think I am more than qualified to voice an opinion on this one. And my opinion is that this rule will become the poster boy for the Law of Unintended Consequences.
I know that it’s popular to bash airlines, especially with baggage fees (and hand luggage fees!) and fare increases and charging for select seats and no free food and so on. But, the reality is that airlines are still losing money. And they actually don’t make much on completely full flights! There is absolutely no way airlines are going to risk fines of up to $27,500 per passenger (that’s over $6,000,000 or so for a typical Boeing 757).
And so now airlines will do the only thing they can do, they’ll cancel flights earlier or more often. And for those of us who live on the road, life is going to get just a bit more painful as a result.
Congress, DOT, and FlyersRights.org, thanks for nothing!