For hundreds of flyers, Valentine’s Day 2007 ranked as the most annoying day for travel ever. That’s the day a blizzard hit the Northeast, leaving some passengers trapped on planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport for upward of six hours. “It was the Valentine’s Day from hell,” a case study of the incident from the Harvard Business School notes.
That, plus a number of other incidents in which passengers were forced to sit on unmoving planes for hours, led the government to introduce the Tarmac Delay Rule in 2010. The rule stipulates that a plane cannot sit on the tarmac for more than three hours without giving passengers the opportunity to get off; airlines that don't comply with this are fined.
“These new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at the time.
Unfortunately for flyers, the government’s rule — while “highly effective” in reducing long tarmac delays — had one annoying side effect: a jump in the rate of some types of flight cancellations, according to a study released in December 2015 from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College.
|Time the flight is taxing on the runway||Increased likelihood of cancellation in 2010 |
(the year the rule was rolled out) vs. 2009
|Sitting at gate||24% more likely|
|1 - 60 minutes||31% more likely|
|61 - 120 minutes||214% more likely|
|121 - 180 minutes||359% more likely|
|Source: Government Accountability Office|