General Information – Tarmac Fiasco Renews Call for International Rules

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A recent article on reported on a four hour Virgin Atlantic flight delay on the tarmac in Newark.

A hot, dark and miserable four-hour stretch spent by hundreds of travelers parked in a diverted trans-Atlantic plane renewed calls Wednesday to add international travel to a months-old federal rule limiting how long airlines can keep passengers trapped on the tarmac.

All of about 300 passengers marooned late Tuesday and early Wednesday at Bradley International Airport outside Hartford, Conn., finally reached their original destination, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, by mid-afternoon, piling off buses and describing chaos and desperation in the cabin as temperatures and tempers rose.

Some passengers fell ill from the heat as the London-to-Newark Virgin Atlantic flight lingered on the tarmac, and at least one had to be administered oxygen, said David Cooper, a London resident trying to get to his job at a summer camp. The airline confirmed some travelers needed medical treatment but did not say how many.

“Everyone was beginning to get a bit crazy; a few people got fevers, they were really struggling,” Cooper said. “Basically they cracked. I guess these things do happen, and this time they happened to us.”

A federal three-hour limit on tarmac strandings went into effect in April, eight months after 47 passengers on a Continental Express flight were stranded overnight on a runway in Rochester, Minn.

The limit doesn’t apply to international flights and overseas airlines like Britain’s Virgin Atlantic, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently solicited comments on whether it should. Federal officials will investigate whether the Connecticut stranding violated any rules.

Such a negative experience like this can be mitigated by travel insurance.

If the passengers were deplaned, travel delay coverage can reimburse the expenses of meals, lodging, local transportation and phone calls.  Many plans offer this coverage after a four hour delay, however, some can require a much longer time.

Missed connection coverage helps alleviate the costs of the traveler catching up to the trip after an airline delay that results in other missed flights.  Like travel delay, there is a set amount of time that the delay must last, but this is normally about three hours.  Look closely at different policies, sometimes this coverage is only available for missed cruises and tours.

Probably the most valuable travel insurance benefit in a situation like this is trip interruption.  The non-refundable and unused portions of the trip can be reimbursed if inclement weather causes such a delay.  Again, look closely at a policy, as some plans don’t offer coverage until a set time has passed while others simply cover delays caused by inclement weather.

Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.