3 Links I Love: Tarmac Delay Rule is Bad, Bag Fees are Too Low, 747s with 5 Engines

Links I Love

Today’s featured story:
Tarmac Delay Policies: A Passenger-Centric AnalysisMIT/Dartmouth
Surprise, surprise. It turns out that the tarmac delay rule has done more harm than good. This study takes a good look at what’s happened since the rule went into effect.

If you want the CliffsNotes version, you can read this LA Times article. You’ll get the added bonus of Kate Hanni ranting about how academics know nothing and are being paid off by the airlines. Yeah, that’s it.

The big conclusions are that the limit should be extended a bit, plus the rule should be suspended after 5pm since there are so few alternatives if a flight cancels at that point. Seems like a pragmatic approach to fixing something that has never worked as it should have.

Links I Love

Two for the road:
Are Checked Baggage Fees Too Low?Priceonomics
These guys took a look at bag fees and suggest that the airlines are doing it all wrong. (thanks to Matt for sending this in)

That time when we strapped an extra engine on to a jumboQantas Roo Tales
It doesn’t happen often these days, but 747s are built to carry 5 engines for ferrying purposes. Qantas just had to do that to help out a stranded 747 in Johannesburg.

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19 comments on “3 Links I Love: Tarmac Delay Rule is Bad, Bag Fees are Too Low, 747s with 5 Engines

  1. I’ve only read the LA Times summary, but it appears that the article’s conclusion was that passenger delays in ANY form increased with the tarmac rule. I think this means that delays while sitting on an airplane were considered no worse than delays due to a canceled flight.

    I–and I suspect many passengers–would find being cooped up in an aircraft on the tarmac much worse than waiting in an airport or a hotel.

    Having said that, the authors’ proposed modifications look pretty mild, and they think these would help the situation substantially.

    1. I’d disagree, as I think whether being stuck on the tarmac is “much worse” than waiting in an airport or hotel is in the eye of the beholder. If the cancellation means I turn around and go home, or if I’m on business and the cost of any delay is going to be picked up by my employer anyway, then I’d rather have the cancellation. But if I’m on vacation, my flight gets canceled and the airline tells me it’s 3 days before I can get another confirmed seat, and I’m on my own as far as expenses because it’s a weather issue? No thanks. (Actually, at that point, I rent a car and drive the rest of the way, but I digress…)

  2. The logic presented in the piece on baggage fees is the same one used by US Railroads to become freight haulers. The same logic resulted in the wonderful institution known as AMTRAK. Bag fees are another way to generate revenue and advertise lower fares.

  3. Sorry Cranky but I disagree with you. I’d rather be further delayed or cancelled than sit on one of those planes on the runway for 4-5 hours. Just let me on the plane when we can actually leave, otherwise I’ll take my chances at the airport.

  4. I don’t find any ranting from Kate Hanni in the linked article and its comments. She presented a flyer’s perspective, reframed the topic in a way not previously asked, and raised the question of the money behind the study. That’s not ranting.

    1. “Kate Hanni… rejects the findings of the Dartmouth-MIT study, saying she believes the universities are biased and accept funding from airlines.” A blanket rejection of an analysis she doesn’t like, an ad hominem attack, and a provably false accusation of corruption. Yeah, that’s not ‘ranting.’

      1. dictionary.com definition of rant: to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave The LA Times article does not quote Ms. Hanni. The reporter writes or summarizes Ms. Hanni’s point. We don’t know the words she spoke (or wrote if she commented by email). We don’t know at all from the article that she spoke in an extravagant, violent, wild, or vehement way. There’s no evidence in the article that Ms. Hanni ranted.

  5. Huh? I don’t remember anyone claiming the tarmac delay rule was intended to reduce general passenger delays. It was intended to reduce the probability of sitting on a plane without adequate food and water and without working lavatories for over four hours. Even the proponents agreed their would likely be some increase in cancelations.

  6. Apparently Kate Hanni has never flown an airline, because I have fallen victim to this rule entirely too much lately! I’ve had more flights cancelled tan my previous 20 years of flying! Please Kate, don’t look after our rights anymore, we can’t take it!

  7. I believe the next DOT regulation issued that someone cannot find, or is convinced he/she has statistics to prove the regulation has the reverse effect DOT intended will be the first in history. I don’t think there will ever be such a thing.

    Regulations abound, even if the airline industry has been deregulated for years! Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no need for regulations and everyone–the airlines and each customer–simply accepted common sense as the guiding light? (Dreaming, I am, of course.)

    I’m sure most of your get an, or dozens of, airline fare sale emails just about every day, loaded with lots of fine print. Today’s ad for me from Southwest, for example: “Southwest Clip ‘n Save, Goodbye 2015, Hello Sale, sale from Wash. DC, area, one way as low $84*. (Is there ever an airline ad that doesn’t include one or more “asterisks”? Of course, all asterisks are there because of some DOT regulation, I’m sure Southwest would argue.)

    The asterisk refers to 2 lines saying something about restrictions and exclusions applying, advance purchase requirements, seats and days being limited, blackout days applying, and dates during with the trip must be booked. Fine, but then at the bottom of the page/screen are 19 more lines of very fine print expanding on what customers “need” to know.

    Why is it that the airline industry so littered with regulations, even though the industry is said to be deregulated? Other industries have all this regulatory stuff? Are people in this industry born with a regulation gene, or without a common sense one? Immediately following the Southwest ad is one from Wyndham hotels and Super 8. No asterisks! Only 2 sentences about availability and destinations. How can this be? Sure, they don’t deal with tarmacs, I guess!

    1. “The industry” is not deregulated. Only fares and routes are deregulated. Other aspects of the industry are subject to regulation, as with any other industry.

  8. I think the tarmac rule definitely does have benefits. If there’s going to be a really long delay to a short haul flight, I really would like the option to just go back home and use my time in another way. I understand that sometimes weather means that flights just aren’t going to happen and occasionally flights get cancelled. If a plane can’t get off the ground after three hours of waiting, it really does say to me that something has gone terribly wrong – at that point you really have to wonder whether it is still worth trying or instead consider another way of achieving something.

    Dispatchers often have a pretty good idea in advance as to when a flight is at risk of a long taxi delay. This rule should encourage airlines to find a way to provide flights which can get in the air reliably and communicate it to passengers. If something just isn’t going to happen, please tell me instead of getting everyone on board and the gates closed while hoping desperately that a thunderstorm will magically go away.

  9. I don’t doubt that the tarmac delay rule could be improved, but I’m not at all sure I’m on board with the article’s proposals. 1) the “food and water after 2 hours and working lavs always” parts should definitely stay–it’s not clear to me whether they’re proposing eliminating this part for after-5:00-pm departures. This would also require tweaking to make it something like “every 2 hours” for food and water, since that food and water is little consolation if you end up sitting there another 9 hours. 2) I understand the point about lack of late-night substitute flight options, but it seems like there HAS to be some sort of semi-reasonable cap even for these. Maybe 8 or 10 hours or something. Sooner or later, enough is enough. 3) The LA Times missed it, but they’re also proposing changing the rule to require planes to start returning to the gate after 3 hours 30 minutes, instead of the current requirement to actually let people off by 3 hours max. If they’re going to make a change like this, it needs real teeth somehow: just having the pilot turn the wheel back toward the gate and then keeping everyone cooped up for hours more would not be an acceptable outcome.

  10. I’ll agree with some others here on the tarmac rule. Cranky’s statement of “more harm than good” makes implicit assumptions that others will not share. Others will think that being cooped up in an aircraft, on the ground, for several hours is a situation so bad that avoiding it is worth some amount of other negative consequences. But if the policy can be fine-tuned, that’s always worth considering.

  11. I would be more sympathetic to ending the tarmac rule had I not been stuck on a place on a tarmac recently – as part of the mess American had in Dallas around Christmas – for ~8 hours – I had forgotten how miserable it was, and I appreciate there are rules in place that prevent this from being a common occurrence, even if those rules do increase overall delays.

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