Lack Of Preparation At Bradley Airport In Hartford Left
Hundreds Stranded Saturday
Airline passenger advocacy group FlyersRights.org has renewed
its call for mandatory airport tarmac delay contingency plans after
flight diversions caused by an early winter storm resulted in
hundreds of passengers being stranded on the tarmac for up to 10
hours. The disaster's epicenter was Hartford, Connecticut's Bradley
Field. With New York-area airports closed, some 23 flights were
diverted to Bradley, including some international flights. Bradley
Field was ill-prepared, just as it was in June, 2010, when a Virgin
Atlantic flight was diverted from Newark, stranding over 300
passengers for over four hours. Stranded passengers called the
FlyersRights Passenger Hotline to report intolerable cabin
conditions and medical emergencies on their flights. In a message
to DOT leadership Monday, executive director Kate Hanni (pictured)
said, "We believe that, had there been a mandate for the
airport to have a plan, they would have been more aggressive about
their situational awareness and getting folks off of those planes.
I chalk this up to airports having no contingency plans."
Incident severity was magnified because airports, unlike
airlines, are not required to develop tarmac delay contingency
plans. Time after time, airports faced with other-than-normal
situations fail to respond, and the air traveling public pays for
it. From the 2010 Christmas Storm's 19 extended tarmac delays
through last year's Virgin Blue stranding to this weekend's
disaster, the crying need for realistic planning has been
Contingency plans, regulated and approved by the U.S.
Department of Transportation, could provide an efficient and
seamless mechanism to prevent long tarmac strandings. By
comparison, International airports, such as those in the European
Union have them. This is due to the fact that the EU has passed and
implemented regulations in 2004. Some of these rules include
provisions that require that passengers are paid a minimum of 250
EU up to 600 EU for flight delays of any kind. The rules also
require that specific goods and services must be offered to
passengers during delays such as phones, fax, food, and water.
"One contingency many EU airports have in place is the option to
use passenger buses or co-buses that can deplane stranded
passengers. Almost every country in the world has triple the number
of co-buses the US has. EU has over 2400, in the U.S. we have 65,"
said Hanni. "This is one option the U.S. should explore."
Hanni also highlighted last year's Christmas Storm incidents,
noting that, "Last December, the New York/New Jersey Port Authority
told employees to depart JFK, leaving no one in attendance when
flights tried to return to the gate or arrived from international
destinations. Had they been subjected to potential fines I don't
believe they would make that same decision." Absent any penalty,
Hanni says the airports will not address this issue. "We are
pleased that the DOT is launching an investigation into this issue,
and strongly urge the Department to issue a new rule requiring
airports to develop contingency plans for tarmac delays, addressing
preparations for these inevitable incidents. We are prepared to
work around the clock with DOT and Airports to develop these plans
before the Holiday travel season is upon us," she said.