Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No Surprise: Study Finds 3-Hour Tarmac Rule Causes More Problems Than Solves

Well, count me among those who warned that the new rule that prevents airlines from keeping passengers sitting on the tarmac for no more than three hours would cause more problems than it solves.
The study, conducted by industry consultants Darryl Jenkins of The Airline Zone LLC and Joshua Marks of Marks Aviation LLC, concludes that the new rule will create more problems than it solves. Specifically, it states that although the rule will spare 110,000 passengers per year an average of 3.26 hours in (taxi-out) tarmac delays, approximately 400,000 fliers will face even greater disruption due to increased flight cancellations.

“We’re on pace to have 5,000 to 6,000 [more] flights canceled per year because of the rule,” says Marks. “That translates into a 4:1 ratio against [the impact of] tarmac delays.”

One month and counting
As the first full month under the new rule, May was clearly a half-glass-full, half-glass-empty kind of month. According to DOT, there were five tarmac delays of three-plus hours compared to 35 during May 2009. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that cancellations rose from .88 percent of flight operations to 1.24 percent during the same period, a seemingly small increase that actually represents a 40 percent jump. All told, 6,730 flights were canceled in May 2010 compared to 4,810 in 2009.
Airlines have figured that it is in their interest to cancel flights rather than approach the 3-hour tarmac rule, which ends up screwing passengers in the long run. Far from being a boon to passengers, the rule ends up harming far more passengers than it helps - at least during the first month the rule was in effect.

Individual airlines had come up with their own ways to deal with ground delays prior to the enactment of the rule, including jetBlue, whose mangling of schedules in February 2007 resulted in the eventual adoption of the new rules.

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