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Government imposes 3-hour limit on tarmac strandings

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

Airlines must taxi their passengers back to the terminal rather than leaving them stranded on the tarmac for hours or face stiff penalties under new rules being proposed by the Obama administration.

The new regulations, published Monday in the Federal Register, apply only to domestic flights and say that passengers must be provided snacks, water, medical care and operable toilets, and after three hours they must have the option of returning to the terminal.

Airlines would be fined $27,500 per passenger for failing to follow the new rule, which could take effect in 120 days.

"Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

There are exceptions in the new rule: The airplane can stay on course for takeoff if doing otherwise interferes with the safety of the flight or would disrupt airport operations.