Written by Kim Geiger

Published by Los Angles Times

Reporting from Washington – The U.S. Department of Transportation is ordering airlines to allow passengers to leave an airplane if it has been stranded on the tarmac for three hours, a response to recent flight delays that left passengers stuck on idle airplanes for long periods.

The time limit applies to domestic flights, but operators of international flights will be required to specify their own time limits for deplaning . For both domestic and international flights, the rule includes exceptions for instances in which deplaning would present safety or security concerns, or if it would be disruptive to airport operations.

The rule also requires that airlines post flight delay information on their websites and adopt customer service plans to address complaints relating to flight delays and cancellations. Airlines also will be required to provide food and water within two hours of a delay.

“Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

The rule was sparked by a series of recent tarmac delays, such as one case involving a Minneapolis-bound flight that was diverted to Rochester, Minn., and sat idle on the tarmac for nearly six hours before passengers were allowed to leave the plane. The Transportation Department fined three carriers involved in the delay.

The department is considering rules that would require airlines to disclose baggage fees and to disclose the full price of advertised flights. Also under consideration are rules to require stronger reporting of and contingency plans for tarmac delays.

the rest here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tarmac-delays22-2009dec22,0,6346702.story