On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. While the major focus of the legislation is to promote increased air safety by replacing radar with a GPS-based navigation control system, there was at least one tidbit for the flying public, as a “bone” was tossed in that requires the airlines to provide food, water and other amenities to passengers kept waiting on the runway for takeoff. In addition, the bill requires passengers be given the opportunity to deplane after waiting three hours on a plane that has left the gate but for some reason or another has not yet taken off.
Unfortunately, the Senate version of the Reauthorization must be reconciled with a version passed by the House several months ago. There are several major differences between the two versions and the final bill may or may not contain the passenger provision. See this story by the AP for more details
Waiting on the Runway
We suspect you know the drill. The airplane pulls out of the gate and proceeds on the taxi way, but never heads for the active runway. After touring every inch of the airport runways (except those being used for take-off), you pull into a “parking” area and the pilot casually announces that there will be a slight delay due to “weather”, or “traffic”, or some other difficulty that was too garbled to understand. Of course, the pilot ends with the famous “We’ll keep you updated.” When you hear that phrase, go to sleep, because your plane will not be moving for hours.
But, the pilot is not yet done and he restarts the conversation with “We may be given the green light for takeoff at any minute, so keep to your seats with your seatbelt fastened or we might miss our window.” The last statement is probably among the top ten “greatest lies ever told.” Well, maybe almost as great a lie as the next sentence, which usually is “However, because of the possibility of imminent takeoff (right), I’m asking the cabin crew to remain seated and not provide service, since we don’t want to miss our window, do we?”
About two hours into this trial, you will find that you need a bathroom break – but the cabin crew will tackle you and tell you that “You must remain in your seat, we are on an active runway”. Have you ever wondered how that’s possible? How can a plane that has not moved for 120 minutes, be on an active runway? Even better, how do they get so close to the other planes that are sitting on the same runway so that the exhause fumes port right into your flights air conditioning system? Now you need to use the bathroom AND you have a headache. Unfortunately, the crew will not be able to serve you a glass of water, so just chew up those Excedrin, swallow them dry and enjoy the moment!
It seems hard to believe that it would take an act of Congress to convince the airlines that they should provide “water” and other amenities to people held captive on an airplane for three hours. Perhaps more interesting is the notion of what it would take to keep them from losing our luggage. No, that would be impossible.
Something is better than nothing, I suppose.
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