As Chairman of Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray has long pressured the U.S. Department of Transportation to end practice of keeping passengers aboard planes on tarmac during long delays

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) applauded a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that takes effect today that would limit tarmac delays for passengers on domestic flights. Under the new rule, U.S. airlines operating domestic flights may not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac at large and medium hub airports for more than three hours without deplaning passengers. Senator Murray has raised this issue on numerous occasions with Transportation Secretaries and FAA Administrators. She has also increased funding for U.S. Department of Transportation programs that protect airline customers and improve customer services.

“As someone who spends a great deal of time on commercial airlines, I know the frustrations of delays, the importance of good customer service, and the need to respect the rights of passengers,” said Senator Murray. “Holding passengers on the tarmac for long delays is flat out unacceptable and I have long worked to bring about this change. I am also pleased that the rule change today requires airlines to eliminate chronically delayed flights and pay better attention to consumer complaints. We need to do all that we can to ensure that the rules put passengers first.”

In addition to the tarmac deplaning requirements the rule announced today also:

  • Prohibits the largest U.S. airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those that do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices; 
  • Requires U.S. airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
  • Requires U.S. airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
  • Prohibits U.S. airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets. 

In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, beginning at the end of July, airlines will be required to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate.

The new consumer rule is available on the Internet at, docket DOT-OST-2007-0022.