Making a mockery of the 3-hour rule

Two of the worst airports in the country for tarmac delays are in the New York City area: Newark and JFK. And the carriers with the most operations out of those airports, Delta, American Airlines, jetBlue and Continental, have significant exposure to the impending DoT rule regarding 3-hour delays on the tarmac. The response of those carriers has been two pronged, one in the public and one to the government. The carriers are very publicly stating that they will be canceling more flights rather than risk the fines and they are also applying for exemptions from the rule at those airports.

Waiting in line at JFK

The exemption applications started with Delta and jetBlue last week. American submitted a similar request a couple days later. And now, feeling a bit left out, Continental has now submitted an even broader request, claiming that all three NYC airports should be treated equally because the runway construction at JFK will have a cascading impact on the entire airspace, not just on JFK directly.

As ridiculous as I think the rule is, the way the airlines are responding is even more ridiculous. I fully expect that United Airlines will be applying for an exemption at Dulles US Airways at Philadelphia (they each more 3+ hour delays than Newark did last year) just to round out the party. I also don’t expect the DoT to grant the exemptions. If they do it will be an admission that the rule was never intended to actually be enforced in the first place.

Yes, flights will be cancelled. Yes, passengers will suffer for that. And there’s even a decent chance that a flight or two will actually cross the magical three hour limit and the carrier will suffer for it. But the cry-baby attitude that the airlines are displaying is pathetic.

No matter which way the DoT rules on these applications, the situation is a joke.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.