Chairman Rockefeller Statement on New DOT Rule to Strengthen Airline Passenger Protections

December 22, 2009

SCom: AviationWASHINGTON, D.C—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement today after an announcement made by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding a new rule that establishes consumer protections during airline tarmac delays. The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers.

“This new Department of Transportation rule is a step in the right direction that will strengthen the rights of airline passengers,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “As millions of Americans travel this holiday season to see their loved ones, consumers should know they have new rights if their flights are significantly delayed. I have made airline passenger rights a priority in the FAA Reauthorization bill, and I am pleased the DOT has made a significant step forward today on the issue. I will be reviewing the impact on airline passengers as we move forward on our legislation.”

The rule enhances airline passenger protections by:


  • Requiring U.S. carriers to adopt contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays;
  • Requiring U.S. carriers to respond to consumer problems;
  • Defining chronically late flights and deeming the holding out of such flights by U.S. carriers to be unfair and deceptive in violation of U.S. code;
  • Requiring U.S. carriers to publish information on flight delays on their websites;
  • Requiring U.S. carriers to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
  • Prohibiting U.S. carriers from retroactively applying any material amendment to their contract of carriage that has significant negative implications for consumers.