We’re all waiting together

Industry experts, airline officials await new tarmac rules

New government rules make it less likely that you’ll be stranded for hours on the ground inside an airplane this summer.

But could you be grounded for days instead?

Starting Thursday, passengers will have the right to get off a plane if it’s stuck on a tarmac for three hours unless doing so would jeopardize safety.

Two airlines – Continental and US Airways – are already telling pilots to return planes to the gate in time to beat the deadline.

Airline officials say hundreds of flights are likely to be canceled at the hint of bad weather as carriers try to avoid potential fines in the millions of dollars for violating the three-hour rule.

And with planes expected to be full this summer, bumped travelers will have difficulty finding an empty seat on a later flight.

“The misery index for airline passengers is definitely going to go up,” says David Stempler, an aviation lawyer and president of the Air Travelers Association.

Some industry experts say cancellations aren’t likely to be as severe as many fear. They argue that financially strapped carriers won’t risk losing revenue and passenger loyalty at a time they desperately need both.

Government officials say they rarely impose the maximum penalties.

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