Carrier Wants To Avoid Congressional Intervention
In an attempt to heed the anguished cries of hundreds of
passengers trapped on tarmacs this winter, imprisoned by inadequate
planning and apparent lack of compassion by the commercial airline
industry -- while also avoiding Congressional action -- United
Airlines announced it is changing its policies on ground
The carrier says it will limit taxi-out and on-ground diversion
delays before takeoff to three hours or less, and limit taxi-in
delays after landing to 90 minutes or less, according to the Denver
In the event those boundaries are crossed, however, it's
unlikely passengers will swoon over the airline's generosity.
Should a taxi-out or on-ground diversion delay last longer than
four hours, or a taxi-in longer than 90 minutes occur, United will
call them "flights of note" and present affected passengers with a
20 percent discount on a round-trip economy-class United ticket, a
$10 airport meal voucher... and a written apology.
"This is giving compensation where they historically have not,"
said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.
But, he said, "we as passengers have to recognize there is no free
lunch. We pay for these things at the end of the day, so if an
airline is very forthcoming with money, it's going to affect fares
at the other end."
United claims 324 of its flights in 2006 had taxi-out times that
extended past the three hour mark.
As Aero-News reported,
low-cost carrier JetBlue came up with a customer bill of rights
earlier this year, in response to storm-related delays that
stranded passengers on New York tarmacs for hours... and tied up
its network for days.
Apparently, United thought now would be a good time for a policy
change... especially as Congress is working to birth a universal
airline "passenger bill of rights" that would tightly regulate
airlines' actions during ground delays. That's something the
airlines would prefer not happen.
The carrier said it implemented its ground-hold and diversion
policy "following several high-profile incidents of extreme travel
delays in the industry - which sparked interest in a legislated
Passenger Bill of Rights."
"Stuck on a plane on the tarmac for hours on end before takeoff
or after landing is something no one enjoys," the airline told
employees. "How we handle our customers during operational
challenges, such as extensive delays, can make or break our
customers' impression of their United experience."