4.5 hrs waiting on the tarmac

Aug 13th, 2010, 09:57 AM
  #1  
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4.5 hrs waiting on the tarmac

Question: How long is it allowed for passengers to wait on the tarmac? What is the correct compensation for a cancelled flight and much distress?

Situation:
Flight: JFK - Zürich with Delta

Our 10.05 pm international flight was ready for flight. After a long wait on the runway, our sold out plane was ready for take-off. Suddenly, the pilot announced the plane needed to return to the gate due to a misfunctioning light in the cockpit.

4.5 hours later, sustained by 2 drink services and sporadic information from the pilot, we were told the light couldn't be fixed and the flight was cancelled. We could finally disembark. It was 2.40 am.

We went out of the gate where we were not guided or informed of our options. They opened up 6 counters to reschedule our flights and organise a hotel room. As compensation, they offered three $6 meal vouchers, one ground transportation and a $100 voucher for Delta. We waited 1.5 hours in line. It was after 5 am when we got to our hotel, frustrated and terribly tired.

The next day, my rescheduled flight on Airfrance (connecting through Paris) went smoothly. We were even met at the gate by someone who guided us to the next terminal. That was customer service.

My checked through baggage did not arrive with the flight but it was delivered to my home in Switzerland the same night as my arrival date.

The $100 voucher and the lack of customer service at JFK left me feeling abused, neglected and unappreciated as a customer. What rights do international passengers have nowadays?
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 02:15 PM
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I'm sorry to hear what you went through. Definitely not fun.

I think, though, that Delta did what they're supposed to do in such a situation. You got hotel accommodation, meal vouchers and ground transportation.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 04:55 PM
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Check out rule EU261. It gives the rules for situations such as yours. I don't know what all is in it but Europe has some very strict rules and of course, from what I have read the airlines will try to get away with giving as little as possible.
bratsandbeer is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 02:21 AM
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Thanks for the replies. This happened at JFK so European rules do not apply.
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 05:34 AM
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> This happened at JFK so European rules do not apply.

The European rules certainly do apply, but only if Switzerland is a party to the EU agreements. (Sorry, showing some ignorance here, and I couldn't readily find the list of signatory countries.)

The EU rules apply:

- To all flights operated by any air carrier based in an EU country, regardless of the origin/destination of the flights

- To all flights operated by other carriers (in this case, Delta) that are scheduled to depart or arrive from an EU country.
DonTopaz is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 06:02 AM
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Interesting. So who enforces these rules or is it just lipservice?
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 08:04 AM
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>>>>To all flights operated by any air carrier based in an EU country, regardless of the origin/destination of the flights<<<

Delta is based in the US.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 14th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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What exactly do you want from them in the form of compensation? No, not a good situation but mechanical problems do happen. With them opening 6 counters at that time of night is pretty good. It could have been much worse.
Considering that it was a full plane with everyone needing to be rescheduled a 1.5 hour wait doesn't seem unreasonable. I don't understand if they opened up 6 counters to assist and got you into a hotel why you would feel "abused and neglected". Pretty much everyone has airline horror stories, yours doesn't seem so bad.
Lynnaustin is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 08:58 AM
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My main issue is the 4.5 hours waiting in an airplane. I thought this was banned.
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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schuler, for more information about your rights, see apr.europa.eu.
DonTopaz is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Waiting on the tarmac like that really is hellish. What I hate most about Delta is routing through JFK, where I invariably meet with delays.

Your experience sounds like a nightmare, but other than offering a more valuable voucher I'm not sure what else they could have done.
annw is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 09:58 AM
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One thing I learned in a similar situation in May - did they open the cabin doors at all, even to bring in food and drink? Once they open the cabin doors (and theoretically let you leave if you want) the 3 hours starts ticking again. The cabin crew in our flight even poked fun at the new law, saying with the 3 hours starting again it would NEVER happen that passengers would be compensated...
mztery is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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The 3 hour time limit for U.S. carriers applies only to domestic flights. For international flights originating in the U.S. on U.S. carriers each airline sets their own delay rule which they are required to make public. If you read the Delta website then you will find that their self-imposed rule for international delay before they allow passengers to get off the plane is 4 hours. They are also required to provide water and lavatories (which it sounds as if they did).
$100 voucher seems reasonable. They are not going to give everyone a free ticket or money. Mechanical delays do happen.

I imagine the passengers would have been upset if they were able to de-plane after one hour and then the plane was fixed. It sounds as if they tried as hard as they could to get that plane going. Also this late at night, there were no other flights that they could transfer all of these people to. If this is the worse that happens to you at an airport, you're luckier than many.
Lynnaustin is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 11:19 PM
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Switzerland (like Iceland and Norway) has agreed to conform to the EU rules on compensation.

See http://www.bazl.admin.ch/dienstleist...x.html?lang=de, or (within the EU only) phone 00 800 67891011.

I'm not sure, though, whether the EU rules apply to non-EU/EFTA airlines if the delay occurs on an EU/EFTA-bound flight outside the EU/EFTA: my speedreading of the Council regulation refered to at http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/air_en.htm seems to show they don't - but there may be a bit of small print saying it does, or would if there were a KL/AF codeshare.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 16th, 2010, 12:57 AM
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The European rules certainly do apply, but only if Switzerland is a party to the EU agreements.

These rules do not apply to this trip. Delta is a US airline and are only bound by EU rules when departing from an EU/EFTA country.

As for the compensation... Delta actually did alright here, IMO. Mechanical delays can and do happen with every carrier, and a hotel, meal vouchers, rebooking, and $100 is pretty fair.
travelgourmet is online now  
Aug 19th, 2010, 07:26 AM
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As travelgourmet explained, all carriers are bound by EU legislation and the compensation scheme when departing FROM any EU/EFTA airport. But only EU/EFTA airlines are bound by EU legislation when flying TO any EU/EFTA airport.

But:
It is a common misconception that technical problems are excused because "they happen". The European Court of Justice has clarified in 2007 that technical problems that cause delays or cancellations do NOT count as unconditional circumstances or events beyond the control of airlines like bad weather, full airspace, or ATC strikes. Only very narrowly defined exceptions like sabotage are (obviously) excluded. Therefore, airlines are forced to follow the EU rules for compensation and assistance.
ECJ C-549/07
ECJ rulings have the same "status" as Regulations, i.e. they become immediately applicable Community Law.

If this incident had happened on the outbound leg flying from, say Paris to JFK (trying to get around the issue of how CH is involved in the scope of the Directive), and the flight got eventually cancelled (which was my impression from your story), you would have been entitled to:

during the "delay phase" (on the tarmac)
- meals and refreshment (just 2 drink services on the tarmac in 4.5 hrs are a bit on the weak side)
- two free phone calls, or emails, or faxes
(once you entered the "cancellation phase")
- transfer from airport to hotel and back
- hotel room
- continuous supply of meals and refreshment
- €600 (appr $770) in cash compensation (payment in airline vouchers needs approval of passenger) -- unless replacement flight was able to reach destination with less than 4hrs delay compared with the initial ETA. Then only 50%, i.e. €330 in compensation)
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2010, 12:53 AM
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Thanks for the reply, cowboy. That answers all my questions and explains why I feel that the $100 voucher wasn't enough compensation.

Among the passengers, the Europeans were most angry about their treatment and lack of compensation. The Americans just seemed used to it and took it in stride. From the land of customer service, it seemed rather ironic. Does this have to do with security and fear or have people given up on good service at airports?
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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Hi Schuler! How have you been? JFK is a total nightmare. Since switching to Southwest Air for most of our domestic flights we're so much happier. The flight attendants are friendly and helpful and there's even leg room. Fewer problems in all areas. I hope they start flying to Europe soon.
calville is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 11:25 PM
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hi schuler, sorry to hear about your situation. Delta is a terrible airline to fly. (and so is United, but that's a whole other story that I might share later)

Do passengers in this situation have the possibility of getting off the plane and changing to another flight? Or must one wait on the tarmac without knowing how long the wait will be?
nancicita is offline  
Aug 26th, 2010, 09:13 AM
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We had to wait on the tarmac without knowing how long the wait will be. No one was allowed off the plane. In fact, they kept asking us to stay in our seats. The information was sparce.
kleeblatt is offline  

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