Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: When your plane's stuck on the Tarmac
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Tuesday 26 March 2013
Q. During the weekend's snow, my wife and daughter were sitting on a plane at Belfast for over three hours heading to Scotland. Did they have any rights to food or water?
A. In theory, yes; in practice, no. For passengers, few experiences are more frustrating than sitting on a plane on the ground. My record is seven hours on a Northwest Airlines (now Delta) aircraft from Philadelphia to Amsterdam.
Why do airlines put their passengers through the ordeal? Because they hope they will be able to depart soon, which will be in everyone's interests. Any captain is happier knowing that all his or her passengers are on board, rather than roaming around the airport becoming involved in lunch or being seduced by all the shopping. The plane is then ready to leave at the drop of an air-traffic controller's hat.
If a suddenly available slot (or the chance to be de-iced) is missed, the delay can get even more extensive, and expensive.
Europe's current rules on passenger care theoretically (EU261) apply to Tarmac delays, such as your wife and daughter suffered. They were in principle entitled to a drink and a snack after two hours. However, airlines are permitted to forego such care if the process of providing it will delay the plane further.
Were they passengers in the US, their rights would be much stronger. The Department of Transportation rules on "Tarmac Delay Contingency Plans" stipulate that, after two hours, "adequate food and potable water" must be provided, as well as "operable lavatory facilities". After three hours, passengers have the right to get off the plane. Heavy fines are applied to airlines that fail to comply.
The European Union hopes to act to confer passengers with some specific rights about "Tarmac delays" including the right, after an hour's wait on the ground, to air conditioning, to the use of toilets, to medical assistance and to drinking water. But these will not take effect until next year, which will be rather too late for your wife and daughter.
Click HERE to email Simon.
You can also tweet him your questions @SimonCalder
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 3 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
- 5 Paracetamol Challenge: Mother of girl killed by overdose pleads with teenagers not to take part
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...
£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...
£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...