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  • Writer's pictureTina Huggins

Heads up on 3 hours tarmac limits


Friday night, I was looking forward to getting home at an early time…I was starved as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was looking forward to having dinner with a friend….It is never easy flying out of Atlanta….first the pilots were delayed 30 minutes…we boarded at 6:15….all buckled up and ready to go…boarding door shut and the heaven’s opened up to a torrential down pour…thunder, lightening and wind effects. Our small plane felt like a rocking chair…the guy across from me had his blackberry pulled up on the weather report and just shook his head…we were in for the long haul as where there is lightening no planes take off or land.

First things first we waited…water and snacks were provided. The flight attendant couldn’t have done a better job during our almost 3 hour ordeal. After two hours of waiting at the gate, the pilot buzzed her and cocktails were served (at our cost, but at least they were available!). I am somewhat claustrophobic so this extended time in a confined space was not great, but a cocktail and an interesting conversation with the German sitting next to me made the time pass….interpreting to the attendant that he wanted a German beer, only to his disappointment when it arrived…he quickly pointed out that Heineken was made in Holland. Thank goodness he drank it anyway.

Finally, the storm subsided enough for us to leave the gate… the daunting task to follow was waiting in line with a multitude of planes. After another 40 minutes the pilot told us we might not get off the ground due to the new 3 hour limit law that had been passed. This law states that passengers can not be detained on a plane for more than three hours….I am sure not many of us have considered the ramifications of this law…

There were 15 planes ahead of us and if we hit the 3 hour time limit the pilot was required to get out of line and return to the gate so passengers could deplane. We were almost to our 3 hour limit….five minutes passed and the pilot announced that we are number 4 for take off! Applause and cheers rang out through the airplane….the reason why…10 planes in front of us hit their three hour limit and had to return to the gate. Great news for us, but I would have been hoppin mad if I had been on one of those planes sent back to the gate. They probably didn’t get home that night.

Remaining on a plane for 3+ hours can be a terrible inconvenience and yet we are now faced with a law that that requires pilots to return to the gate whether you are in line for take off in spot #4 or #24. I can bet there were plenty of angry customers in Atlanta on Friday evening because of this new law…what a double edged sword….that doesn’t provide a winning situation for air travelers.

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