U.S. Airports Report Lowest Number of Long Tarmac Delays in 2014

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Airlines reported the lowest number of tarmac delays longer than three hours on record in 2014, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Tuesday.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, there were 30 domestic flights with tarmac delays of three hours or longer and nine international flights with delays of four hours or longer at U.S. airports in 2014. Delays in both categories dropped by more than 60 percent year over year.

Foxx credited relatively recent changes limiting the amount of time airlines can keep passengers on the tarmac, saying the "rules are meant to protect passengers and it appears that the airlines have gotten the message."

“We have aggressively enforced, and will continue to aggressively enforce, our tarmac delay rules to ensure that carriers have adequate resources, such as staff and equipment, to minimize passengers’ exposure to lengthy tarmac delays, and that passengers are treated with respect before, during, and after their flights,” Foxx added.

In 2013, U.S. airports saw 84 domestic flights with tarmac delays longer than three hours and 55 international flights with delays longer than four hours. During 2009, the last full year before the Department’s domestic tarmac rule went into effect, airlines reported 868 domestic flights with tarmac delays longer than three hours.

The department’s rule that prohibits U.S. carriers operating domestic flights from sitting on tarmacs for longer than three hours without giving passengers the option to deplane went into effect in April 2010.

Another rule that prohibits U.S. and foreign carriers to operate international flights to or from the U.S. from allowing tarmac delays longer than four hours at U.S. airports without a deplane option began in August 2011.

Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related situations. Tuesday's figures do not include other types of delays or cancellations, such as those that occur before passengers get on the plane.

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