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Houston is Proactive With New Tarmac Rules


Houston Airport System
May 24, 2010



© Houston Airport System
Airlines are now operating with a three-hour deadline on tarmac delays

The Houston Airport System (HAS) is doing everything possible to assist airlines in avoiding potential violations regarding newly adopted tarmac-delay regulations, by establishing the HAS – Irregular Operations (IROPS) Program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is imposing new rules that incorporate many of the ideas established in the “passenger bill of rights” movement, affecting the way air carriers handle lengthy tarmac delays.

“A coordinated collaborative effort by the airlines, airports, government agencies and other aviation service providers is essential to successfully minimize the impact of lengthy onboard ground delays,” says Mark McClintock, director of airport operations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). “Therefore, we at HAS believe that by coordinating with one another, we will be able to create a contingency plan that is tailored to certain operational parameters, is flexible and provides for optimal customer service during an extended tarmac delay.”

Under the new rule, which took effect on April 29, U.S. airlines operating domestic flights must allow passengers the opportunity to de-plane after a tarmac delay reaches the three hour mark.

The only exceptions in place involve safety and security concerns, or if air traffic control advises the pilot to remain on the tarmac.

The program refines the current irregular operations procedures which are already in place, which address situations such as extreme weather, flight diversions, airport issues, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) problems, air carrier issues and special events.

HAS is moving forward in a collaborative manner with various government agencies, airlines, concessions, public representatives, law enforcement, designated diversion airports and other external agencies to establish a seamless approach for mitigating the effects of irregular operation events.

Meeting organizers are hoping that by adopting a collective, regional approach, information will be made more accessible and the effective tracking of aircraft and other vital equipment can be greatly improved. In addition to the three hour limit (and significant financial penalties for those offending airlines), the new guidelines also prohibit the largest U.S. airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights and requires U.S. airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations.

The requirement also mandates that airlines adopt customer service plans (auditing their own compliance at the same time) and respond is a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints.

To find out more about the DOT Airline Consumer Protection Rules, Click Here: www.dot.gov/index.html

Both of Houston’s largest air carriers have tarmac delay contingency plans.

To view the plan for IAH’s largest air carrier, Continental Airlines, Click Here

To view the contingency plan for Hobby’s largest air carrier, Southwest Airlines, Click Here.

Copyright © 2010 - Houston Airport System

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