8 Air Travel Rights You Didn’t Know You Have

By: BENET WILSON | Pulished on 2024-01-15

Stuck on the Tarmac

8 Air Travel Rights You Didn’t Know You Have-Trip AdviseJoe Raedle / Getty Images News / Getty Images


On Jan. 16, 1999, thousands of passengers were trapped for up to 10 hours on Northwest Airlines jets stranded after a major snowstorm at Detroit Metro Airport. That led to a $7.1 million settlement to those travelers and the creation of DOT regulations on how long passengers can be forced to stay on a delayed plane.

A similar incident happened to JetBlue at its JFK Airport hub on Valentine’s Day, 2007. The CEO of JetBlue announced a $30 million initiative to rewrite its procedures for handling flight disruptions and create a customer bill of rights.


DOT rules don’t allow U.S. airline domestic flights to stay on a tarmac for more than three hours, but there are exceptions. 

  • The pilot feels there is a safety or security reason why the aircraft can’t go back to the gate and deplane passengers.
  • Air traffic control feels that moving an aircraft to a gate would significantly disrupt airport operations.

International flights operated by U.S. carriers are required by DOT to establish and comply with their own limit on the length of tarmac delays. But passengers on both types of flights must be given food and water no later than two hours after the delay begins. Lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.

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