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DOT Denies Airlines' Requests For Exemptions From New Rule Limiting Time They Can Keep Passengers On Tarmac

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has denied the exemptions requests made by five airlines in relation to a new federal rule that will limit the amount of time an airline can force passengers to remain onboard a flight stopped on the tarmac. JetBlue Airways, Delta Airlines, US Airways, Continental Airlines and American Airlines all petitioned the DOT to allow for exemptions to the rule, which goes into effect on April 29. The airlines sought the exemptions for certain airports, including New York's La Guardia and JFK, where runway construction and other issues have caused traffic backups on the tarmac.

Issued by the DOT last December, the tarmac delay rule states that airlines cannot keep passengers stranded aboard an airplane on the tarmac for more than three hours, with exceptions for security, safety, or if air traffic controllers advise the pilot that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

The DOT suggested after denying the requests that the airlines could minimize tarmac delays by proactively rerouting or rescheduling flights at the problematic airports, but said that creating an exemption which would allow airlines to hold passengers on the tarmac was not an option. "Passengers on flights delayed on the tarmac have a right to know they will not be held aboard a plane indefinitely," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

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