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Another Unintended Consequence of Government Meddling

In typical fashion, the government meddles in an issue and makes things worse. Beginning April 29th, if an airline keeps its passengers delayed on the tarmac for more than 3 hours, it will be fined $27,500 per passenger. Naturally, airlines would like to stay in business, so they have found a way to get around the fines:

Passengers may soon be seeing more cancellations on airport departure boards.

Several airlines, including Fort Worth-based American and Houston-based Continental, say they will cancel flights rather than risk paying stiff penalties for delaying passengers on the runway.

Continental's CEO told investors Tuesday that the airline will opt to cancel flights rather than chance being fined.

"I think all of them will cancel flights," he said. "They'll do it partially because they think they are going to punish passengers, and if they punish them, someone will get this legislation removed."

Aviation consultant Denny Kelly expects other airlines to follow suit...

Under new federal guidelines that take effect next month, airlines can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger if a plane is stuck on the tarmac for longer than three hours...With the new fines, a delayed MD-80 could cost American Airlines close to $4 million, and a fine for a full 757 could cost more than $5 million.

"It's unavoidable that more flights will be canceled to avoid fines," said American Airlines spokesman Steve Schlachter. "It's one of the unintended consequences of a bill that has no flexibility."

A US Transportation spokesperson retorted that if airlines just kept spare aircraft and crew nearby and available in case of scheduling conflicts they could avoid delays. Spoken like a guy who has never run a profitable business. Sure, airlines have so much money to throw around they can keep spare aircraft and crews in every airport in case of delays.

And by the way, these fines are not to be paid to passengers for the inconvenience and discomfort of being stuck in a cramped airline for more than three hours. No, the fines are paid to the government.

From Repubclic.


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Comments (15)

Hey Bobby!Grab me ... (Below threshold)
Liberal Nitemare:

Hey Bobby!

Grab me one o'those extra 707's and drag it up to gate 9 pronto!

There is a real problem tha... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

There is a real problem that the fed is trying to address here: the refusal of airlines to let passengers off the planes when they become trapped in these circumstances. They have actually had people arrested for refusing to just do what their told and remain quietly in their trap. There is a word for those who hold people against their will: kidnapping. If you are in my place of business and I refuse to let you leave because it will cost me money to accommodate your change my schedule, I will be facing charges. The behavior of the airlines that brought about this legislation was atrocious, and this is one area that the government has a legitimate role.

Gee, lets see.....sit in a ... (Below threshold)

Gee, lets see.....sit in a crappy plane (no TV, unable to get up and stretch) on the tarmac for 3 hours, or just have the flight cancelled.

Tell you what, I'll take the cancellation every time.

I agree with you 100% Steve... (Below threshold)

I agree with you 100% Steve Green. Let the airlines bottom line suffer! That way they'll just lay off their costly bloodsucking union workers and make them take hour, pay and benefit cuts.

I like the cut of your jib.

Ah, just what we need! A g... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Ah, just what we need! A gummint "solution" to another "gummint" problem!

Airlines don't control who takes off and when at airports. Who does? Gummint! BUT - if an airline sees the Gummint is performing as inefficiently as usual and causing flights to be delayed for three hours, and changes their flight time so passengers can remain in their terminal bars, the delay is charged against the airline's on-time stats, another gummint mandate. If they board you as scheduled and the Gummint delays you on the tarmac, you should get mad at . . . the airline?

And we should fine . . . the airline? All that accomplishes is a transfer of money from airline passengers ('cause airlines don't have the printing presses, "their" money comes from fliers) to Gummint with NO improvement in service at all.

Fine the Gummint instead! Take a dollar from every congressional salary for every hour of delay at airports, and watch how quickly the flights get off on time!

In Steve Greens comments:</... (Below threshold)

In Steve Greens comments:

"Spoken like a guy who has never run a profitable business. "

Oh yeah -- we need to protect the profits of outfits like Continental and American.

Um, genius, if a business can't show a profit, it usually goes out of business. Unless of course it's a government agency, then it just raises taxes to cover for the shortage.

Not all delays are the faul... (Below threshold)

Not all delays are the fault of the airline - sometimes there are ATC or weather issues or TSA problems. I don't know if these fines only are levied for what issues that can be traced directly back to the airline but I don't think this will solve any problems. In fact, it could make flying less safe. Mechanical problems happen - airplanes are complicated pieces of equipment. Do you want an airline clearing a flight for departure to avoid large fines when the airplane might not be safe? I am not sure that would happen but added pressure makes people make decisions they ordinarily would not make - maybe somebody will decide to rely on the airplane's backup system when the primary system is suspect or decide the problem is minor enough to give the flight the go-ahead to depart. You don't want to get into a situation where the safety margins are being extended even a little bit because of this added pressure.

I am not sure cancelling flights is any more convenient for passengers either. I think the reason why airlines try to keep passengers onboard the airplane is the flights need to be ready at a moments notice to depart and you cannot always anticipate when that will be. It takes a fair bit of time to load an aircraft with anywhere from 150-450 people and if you wait too long you might miss your departure window. I am not saying that the airlines should have carte blanche and should be able to do what they want but I think the problem is a bit exaggerated and the government is completely overreaching now.

The airline business is hardly obscenely profitable and these insanely large fines are not going to help the sitaution. Most airlines are heavily unionized so a lot of highly paid jobs will be at risk because of this latest ridiculous government intervention. It seems like the private sector is the primary enemy of the Obama Administration. I hope the unions realize now exactly who they crawled in bed with - not all unionized workers are employed by federal, state and local governments.

Sure, Steve. It's those obs... (Below threshold)

Sure, Steve. It's those obscene profits generated by those bankrupt airlines. That's always a good solution. And it's those obscene profits generated by those health care insurance companies. And those idiot auto industry companies. And big oil. And big pharmaceutical companies. And logging companies. And those evil Joo bankers.

Money is the root of all evil. Mmmm mmmm mmmm.

Power to the unemployed people. Just who in the hell do you think you'll work for when you grow up and have to start working? The State? Some union?

You just can't fix stupid.

A big point being missed he... (Below threshold)

A big point being missed here is that most airports don't have area for "active" planes to just park, let alone keep extra planes (if they existed).

Flights are cycled through a limited amount of terminal gates, and when there is a large delay, some flights are delayed at the gate and the ones on the tarmac, who have had their gate spot taken by a later flight, just stay out there.

The logistics of emptying all flights because of a delay will difficult enough you will probably see that:

-airlines will start cancellinng flights after only a 30-60 minute delay, because finding a spot to empty the flight may take a while and they won't want to get close to being fined
-You may have boarded the flight at Terminal A, but when your flight is canceled because of a delay and you are brought back to a gate to get off the plane, it may be at Terminal B if that is the first place they can find a open gate.

You can fly anywhere in the... (Below threshold)

You can fly anywhere in the US for $500.


$27,000.00 for the Feds


If I can only get there on ... (Below threshold)

If I can only get there on a commercial airliner, I ain't going.

Once again, failure to make... (Below threshold)

Once again, failure to make common sense decisions has led to the government 'stepping in to help'. Air travel today is as common as taking a bus or train for long trips used to be. Compounding the problem are the 'connecting' flights. It all has to work smoothly or you get kinks, and those begin to send out ever-widening ripples that have even more consequences. Then throw in the odd "TSA incompetence" when whole airports are locked down because some idiot walked through a checkpoint. The death of common sense will kill us yet.

After the 9/11 attacks, the entire US air transport system was shut down, national and international. ATC's worked their asses off getting planes on the ground. Some airports quickly ran out of space to park planes. In the aftermath, the government geniuses decided that they needed to 'write a book' so they'd have a plan if this were to occur again. After several months it became obvious that a "plan" could not be written. There were too many variables that had to be taken into consideration AND FOR ONCE IT WAS RECOGNIZED THAT HUMANS HAD TO MAKE INSTANTANEOUS DECISIONS BASED ON COMMON SENSE.

Too bad Congress doesn't think of this before they write some of the 'laws' they do.

This reminds me of those du... (Below threshold)

This reminds me of those dumb-ass 'no tolerance' rules that have been imposed on a lot of school systems. A real gun is the same as a toy gun, is the same as a gun drawn on paper, is the same as a kid pointing his finger and going 'bang'.

You have a delay - pay $27k per head, doesn't seem to matter whether the delay is for maintenance, weather, screwups in ATC, problems at other airports... and the money goes to the government, instead of the passenger?

How would some asshole going the wrong way through a TSA exit and causing an airport evac/shutdown be handled? Whoa, I can hear the 'Ka-Chings!' going into the Treasury now!

This is another fine example of legislators having fun without considering the unintended consequences of the things they're passing...

Well, I guess we know how t... (Below threshold)

Well, I guess we know how this administration plans to make it's high-speed rail plans work: just bury the competition in regulation and ridiculous fees.

Options:1) Take off ... (Below threshold)

1) Take off late. Result: -$27,000 per passenger
2) Cancel flight. Result: -$500 per passenger.

The choice is basic math.






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