The law of unintended consequences has a strange way of winding its way back to biting us in the behind. Congress recently passed a “Bill of Rights” for passengers flying on commercial airliners in the United States. They deemed that any airline keeping passengers on board a flight for longer than three hours before taking off would be subject to huge fines. This sounds great, right? After all, no one wants to be stuck on an airplane for hours on end. Regulators love to regulate, and law makers love to write new laws. However, what sounds beneficial to passengers often has unintended consequences.
At the country’s largest and busiest airports, this law, and the avoidance of its fines, can often cause more problems and delays than if the rule didn’t exist. I was trying to get home to Columbus from JFK one stormy night, and the delays to push back off the gate were mounting up as flight departures were slowed due to the weather. After sitting onboard for around an hour at the gate, we were all told we had to deplane. Once in the terminal, not five minutes passed and we were told to board again. My guess is that Delta was trying to reset the three hour clock and avoid a potential for delay fees.
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