Everyone gets frustrated when they must spend extra time at the airport due to flight delays. Unfortunately most frequent commercial fliers have simply come to expect and accept that their travel schedules will be periodically disrupted due to these delays. In these situations, this is where some of the greatest benefits of private jet charter come to light.
The causes of the headaches vary from cancelled airline flights, flights that are postponed and perhaps the most infuriating, tarmac delays. In October 2011 the major airlines hit an all-time record for the number of three-plus-hour tarmac delays, and though this exceeds federal regulations no fines have been issued thus far.
CAUSES OF TARMAC DELAYS
There are a number of different common causes to flight delays. By far the largest categories of delays involve either maintenance or weather incidents. But there are a number of commercial flight delays caused by completely unrelated issues. Waiting for commercial passengers arriving on a connecting flight to land at the airport is one good example. A delay caused by the crew that isn’t related to maintenance or mechanical issues is another possibility. Regardless of the type of delay, they all lead to the same things: postponed boarding, cancelled flights, and passengers stranded on a plane on the tarmac. And they surely also cause some very frustrated and inconvenienced passengers.
Obviously a mechanical issue or a delay caused by crew can happen anywhere, anytime. Every area of the country also experiences weather-related flight delays at some point. “Just some of the causes for tarmac and general flight delays/cancellations in 2011 included snow events in Texas and the Northeast, big storms in Chicago and New York, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and high wind conditions that forced diversions for planes bound to Los Angeles,” said Ed Martelle, a national spokesperson for a major carrier. “Every part of the country has times of the year when they are severely impacted by weather events.”
An additional circumstance that can cause tarmac delays if only rarely are TFRs, or Temporary Flight Restrictions. These are often put in place by the FAA when relating to security concerns at large, public events. This past weekend at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis is one good example, when the FAA placed a TFR that prohibited air traffic starting two hours before the game and extended two hours following the event as well.
The Indianapolis International Airport (KIND) and the Eagle Creek Airpark Airport (KEYE) both handled the spike in commercial and private jet air traffic quite well over the course of the events leading up to and after the Super Bowl. Some measure of this success can certainly be attributed to the fact that the Super Bowl is a very well-orchestrated event, planned months in advance. When TFRs occur without any prior notice the possibility of major disruption and resulting problems rises, but these types of temporary restrictions on aircraft takeoff and landing can have the potential to cause lengthy tarmac delays regardless of their circumstances.
Because of the increasing number of tarmac delays experienced by commercial airlines and other basic customer service issues, the Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented new regulations relating to flight delays in April 2010. These rules indicate fines of $27,500 per passenger against any airline that leaves a plane stranded on a tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international travelers.
It should be noted that these penalties are not actually legislated into law, however. FlyersRights.com and other advocate groups have argued that legislation pending in Congress governing the Federal Aviation Administration include the tarmac rule, so that a future DOT cannot simply rescind the current rules. These passenger protections have not been included as of now.
Surprising to no one, the airlines have vigorously attempted to block the rule since conception, arguing that it will lead them to cancel more flights outright. In November 2011 the first fine of $900,000 was announced, levied against American Eagle for tarmac delays at Chicago’s O’Hare airport during thunderstorms the previous May. However there have already been a significant number of occurrences where no fines whatsoever have been issued.
The result of this lax enforcement is that in spite of the current rules, lengthy tarmac delays still occur.
Just one of many recent examples it the experience of international passenger Brent Stanley of Chicago. He was stuck on an American Airlines plane on the tarmac during a flight home from Paris for more than seven hours when a snowstorm struck Bradley International Airport in Connecticut in October of 2011. That is 2 ½ times more than the maximum amount of time allowed for a passenger to be stranded on the tarmac before fines are (supposed to be) issued. “They were completely unprepared,” Stanley says when describing his travel nightmare.
It should also be noted that airlines are not contractually obligated to provide monetary compensation to the passengers themselves on a domestic flight that has been delayed or stranded on the tarmac. They are more likely to provide accommodations if they are responsible for the delay (as opposed to a reason beyond their control, such as a weather event), however. Each individual airline has its own policies for assisting delayed passengers. This illustrates why it’s so important for passengers to conduct their own research into the terms and conditions, contract of carriage, and other similar information specific to the airline.
When stranded on the tarmac passengers are left with few options. Basic rules stipulate that the pilot captain must update the passengers on the status of the delay once every 30 minutes, but this often provides small solace to those stuck on a plane.
Regulations also require airlines to provide water and food to passengers after sitting on a plane for two hours without being able to deplane, unless there are safety or security issues surrounding the incident. In these cases these minimum requirements do not apply. Regardless of the rules, these long delays can still create shortages of water, food, and fresh air, along with the steadily increasing frustrations of uncomfortable passengers.
Airlines must also provide passengers with functioning lavatories and medical attention should they have need. The incidents where even these most basic services could not be provided — the “nightmare scenario” as mentioned above — have been widely reported throughout the media.
THE ADVANTAGE OF JET CHARTER WITH AIR CHARTER ACCESS
Some airports are better equipped to handle these flight delays than others. Slot-controlled airports such as O’Hare, JFK, LaGuardia or Washington National have much more difficulty in rescheduling flights, which causes delays to be far more disruptive to their operations. Because of this these airports wish to avoid deplaning a flight at all costs, leaving passengers on the tarmac as long as they possibly can in an attempt to continue the flight. If they do actually come back to the gate, passengers usually have reduced options to utilize other planes, which are often already filled.
Luckily for jet charter consumers, these issues facing commercial travelers are almost unheard of during their own flying experiences.
To begin with the ability to deplane is a very simple process for jet charter passengers except in the most extraordinary circumstances, and any possible delays are made far more comfortable due to the much higher level of on-plane amenities and personalized service provided.
Another huge advantage available to jet charter consumers is the use of smaller private and regional airports. The reduced traffic at most of these facilities can typically avoid tarmac delays completely, and provide the opportunity to take off almost immediately once issues are resolved.
When flight delays are due to mechanical issues, there are also always additional aircraft options available to jet charter consumers, especially the clients of Air Charter Access. One of our experienced air charter agents will immediately begin working to secure you an alternate aircraft if the need should arise. You will typically be alerted directly by the air charter agent of your flight, without any need for you to initiate the process in any way. Your Air Charter Access agent can also provide options which utilize alternative airports that aren’t experiencing bad weather or other delay conditions, and arrange ground transportation should you need it.
Unlike commercial travel, where you are essentially on your own and at the mercy of the airline, with Air Charter Access you always have a personal representative working on your behalf. Your agent works tirelessly to ensure your timely and safe arrival at your destination, with the minimal amount of inconvenience to you and your travel party should issues arise.
This assistance can be invaluable to you and your company when critical deadlines, timelines or vital business meetings are on the line. When you book a private jet charter with Air Charter Access you can avoid the frustration, headaches and overall inconvenience caused by the increasingly more common flight and tarmac delays found with commercial airlines.
Give yourself the travel experience that you deserve by calling Air Charter Access to arrange your next flight, and see the difference that we provide to our clients for yourself.