US tarmac delays plummet following legislation

Tarmac delays - where passengers are forced to sit in planes on the ground - have fallen by a stunning 98 percent in the US, according to figures released September 13.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) said that only three flights in July were forced to wait on the ground for more than three hours, compared to 161 flights in July 2009.

The drop follows new legislation introduced in April this year which prohibited airlines from allowing full aircraft to wait on the ground for long periods of time without disembarking passengers.

Despite fears that the new rule could lead to a higher number of cancelled flights as airlines chose to not take the risk, the DOT figures showed only a slight rise in cancellations, with 1.4 percent of scheduled domestic flights cancelled (up from 1.2 percent in July 2009).

For the three full months since the legislation has passed, only seven flights have experienced tarmac delays of over three hours - down from 463 in the same period in 2009.

Passenger rights pressure group said that it was "thrilled" with the success of the tarmac delay rule.

Overall, 76.7 percent of flights by the reporting carriers were on time.