There’s nothing worse than rushing to board your plane – buckling in – and then not moving anywhere for hours.
Being cramped on an airline plane with other travelers is not only uncomfortable – but it can disrupt your entire travel itinerary – especially if you have a short time to make your connecting flight.
And while airlines like to make you think they can hold you hostage indefinitely – they are actually legally required to follow certain rules – and here’s what you need to know should you find yourself detained on the tarmac.
There IS A Time Limit
No, you can not legally be held on a plane waiting to depart for hours until airport delays clear up.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation – U.S. airlines can only keep passengers on the tarmac for 3 hours for all domestic flights – and no longer than 4 hours for international flights.
Meaning – if it’s been more than 3 hours and you’re still suck on a plane in the States – you have to be given the option to deplane.
They Must Feed You
But let’s be honest – even a 3-hour delay is absolutely miserable!
Besides being bored and irritated – you might be hungry or thirsty.
The good news is – you aren’t out of luck.
Legally – airlines have to make sure you’re fed and taken care of.
After 2 hours of being trapped on the tarmac – travelers must be provided with food, water, the chance to use the restroom, and even medical care if needed, reported Conde Nast Traveler.
There Are Exceptions
Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule.
Essentially – once you choose to deboard the plane – airlines are not required by law to let you back on.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported:
“Passengers should be aware that if they choose to get off the airplane during a tarmac delay, airlines are not required to let them back on the airplane. The flight may take off without them and passengers may be responsible for finding another flight…
If passengers decide to exit the aircraft during a tarmac delay and the aircraft eventually takes off for its intended destination, the airline may not be required to offload any passenger’s checked bags before the plane takes off. Passengers will need to contact the airline about returning their checked luggage at a later time.”
There are also certain situations where airlines CAN keep you on the tarmac such as safety or security reasons.
Know Your Rights
Ideally, airlines should know the law, and make sure they’re following protocol.
While they should offer water and food to trapped passengers – they don’t always.
Not to mention, the travel horror stories of passengers trapped on planes for hours is enough to reiterate airlines are not your friends – and they’re hoping you don’t know your own rights.
The good news is, now that you know the law, if you ever find yourself stuck for more than 2 hours on the tarmac – speak up and advocate for airlines to follow the Department of Transportation procedures – other uninformed passengers will thank you.
Have you ever been trapped on the tarmac?
What was your experience like?
You can post your response and stay current on the latest Proud American Traveler stories on Facebook!
And if you think your friends or family would be interested in receiving our newsletter directly to their inbox, please forward this email and encourage them to subscribe to our newsletter here.