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Friday, November 25, 2011

Stuck On The Tarmac? Advocate Says, ‘Start Tweeting!’

A baggage cart passes a plane waiting to move into its gate at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Cleveland. (AP)

About 4 million people will be flying somewhere this weekend, so what happens if you are unlucky enough to GET  stuck in a plane on the tarmac? The latest runway delay happened last month in Hartford, Connecticut, where some passengers were stuck for nearly seven hours.

The Department of Transportation is beginning to crack down on airlines, recently fining American Eagle about a million dollars for an incident back in May. But that was far less than the $16 million maximum fine.

So what should you as a passenger do if you’re stuck on the tarmac?

Kate Hanni founded flyersrights.org Hanni founded flyersrights.org after she and her family were stuck for nine  hours on the tarmac in Austin, Texas.

Here are her passenger tips:

  • Before you board your flight, ask at the gate to see if there’s any chance of delay
  • Pack enough medication, extra clothes, toiletries, etc. for two days
  • Pack an extra cell phone battery
  • Start tweeting! The media will pay attention and put more pressure on the airports and airlines to get you out.  Make sure to include the hashtag #stuckontarmac
  • Start a petition! Get your fellow passengers to sign a petition, demanding that the pilot pulls the plane into the gate.
  • Pay attention: write down the names of the pilot and attendants. Also record their explanations for the delay, because how it’s categorized (as mechanical, weather, etc.) will determine the compensation that passengers receive
  • Call the flyersrights 24/7 hotline: 1-877-359-3776
  • As soon as you get off the plane, check the airline’s contract for tarmac delays to see what that airline will cover (for instance, a taxi, food voucher or hotel)

Hanni has even put together a Flyers Rights kit, which includes: adult diapers for when the toilets stop working, water tablets to make clean drinking water and  a disposable camera for documenting the situation.

Hannis has also advocated for the passage of the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. According to her website:

The bill, which had been stalled in Congress since at least 1999, allows passengers the option of getting off delayed planes after three hours on the ground, and requires airlines to provide adequate food, water, temperature controls, ventilation and working toilets to accommodate a three hour delay.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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