Long Tarmac Delays Down to Zero in October

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There were no domestic airline tarmac delays of more than three hours in October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It was the first month in which no such delays were reported since the bureau began collecting the information two years ago.

In October of last year, there were 11 tarmac delays of three-plus hours.

Tarmac delays occur either after the plane has pushed back from the gate but cannot be cleared for takeoff, or after the plane has landed and can't obtain a gate to offload passengers.

After several highly publicized incidents in which passengers were held on aircraft for eight for eight or more hours with backed-up toilets and little food or water, the Transportation Department wrote a new rule requiring airlines to allow passengers to get off planes that are held for three hours.

The rule went into effect April 29, and has its critics: Some airline pundits have predicted huge increases in flight cancellations as airlines seek to avoid hefty fines.

Carriers face fines of up to $27,500 for every passenger held on the tarmac for longer than three hours. There is no government penalty for canceling a flight.

But for October, the bureau also reported that airlines canceled only 0.97% of their scheduled domestic flights, slightly down from the 0.99% rate in October 2009.

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