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Tarmac Delay Rule Increases Flight Cancellations, GAO Says

Photo: Andrew Breeden

A rule limiting tarmac delays to no more than three hours increases the likelihood airlines will cancel flights, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

In a 111-page report released Thursday, GAO said U.S. airlines were at least 24 percent more likely to cancel a flight in 2010 after the three-hour time limit went into effect. The rule took effect in April 2010.

GAO acknowledged “the delay rule this has reduced the hardship of long on-board delays for some passengers,” but that their analysis “suggests the rule is also correlated with a greater likelihood of flight cancellations.”

Flights that remained on the tarmac for more than an hour were 31 percent more likely to be cancelled, GAO said.

U.S. airlines are required to allow passengers a chance to leave stuck planes or face fines of up to $27,500 per customer, according to the Transportation Department’s rules.

The department instituted the rule after several well-publicized incidents, including a regional flight that sat on the tarmac for nearly six hours without allowing passengers to leave the plane.

Click here to read the full GAO report.

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