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Airlines avoid long tarmac delays in Dec. blizzard

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  February 10, 2011 01:51 PM

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Airlines' strategy to cancel flights early and often ahead of bad weather paid off in December, when not a single US flight was stuck for more than three hours because of a massive post-Christmas blizzard.

Three flights were stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours that month, but none of them were held up as a result of the storm. The tally didn't include some international flights that were delayed for more than three hours -- including flights operated by Cathay Pacific and British Airways that spent over seven hours on the tarmac at New York's JFK airport. It also doesn't include more than 300 flights that waited for two hours on the tarmac. Twenty-five of those flights were later canceled.

According to an FAA rule set in 2009, US airlines face fines of $27,000 per passengers for tarmac delays of more than three hours. International airlines are not subject to rule, even if they land or takeoff from US airports. The Transportation Department is considering changing the rules to include international airlines.

The blizzard shut Northeast airports and led to nearly 10,000 cancellations by the 18 biggest US airlines. There were about 20,000 cancellations overall in December. By canceling flights well ahead of bad weather, airlines are better able to keep planes moving through the rest of their networks.

Bloomberg News
Travelers rest in a restaurant while a crew removes snow on Dec. 28, 2010 at LaGuardia Airport in New York.


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