Tired of Waiting, Passengers Cheer New Flight Delay Rules

Horror stories of passengers held on airliners for up to nine hours without food or water — and with non-functioning toilets — appear to be a thing of the past. On Monday, the Department of Transportation announced a new rule prohibiting airlines from holding domestic flights for more than three hours with passengers on board. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood said in a prepared statement, "Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly." But the fine print does include some loopholes. For example, airlines are off the hook if controllers advise the pilot that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. Exceptions could also be made "for safety or security reasons." And the rule applies to domestic flights only, though U.S. airlines "must specify in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers" on international flights, with the same exceptions listed above. Also under the new rule, airlines must provide food and water after a takeoff delay that lasts two hours, lavatories must be functional, and medical attention must be made available if necessary.