Federal regulators are giving airlines about three months to comply with new rules regarding those inordinately long delays that leave passengers trapped for hours on the ground, waiting to take off or deplane.
In just the first half of this year, more than 600 planes stood on the tarmac for three hours or longer, the duration at which the new rules kick in, requiring airlines to allow passengers to get off. After two hours, food and water must be provided, and lavatory and medical care requirements also are established.
This is in accord with years of pressure from passenger advocacy groups about a "bill of rights" meant to prevent those aggravating delays, some of which have lasted 10 hours or longer.
Airlines say compliance with the rules could actually lead to more delays because of ferrying planes and fliers back and forth to the gates. Bet on the cost of fares and amenities to go up, too.
Is this really a matter for federal regulation, though, or should it be left to free-market competition? Federal authority is justified to assure that planes are airworthy, pilots properly trained and air traffic orderly. But some might say that an airline's ability to deliver satisfactory service to its customers is better left to consumer pressures.
What do you think?