FlyersRights was one of the chief proponents of the tarmac delay rule. Passed in 2009, the 3 Hour Tarmac Delay Rule provides the following protections for passengers:

  • The airline must return to the gate and allow passengers to exit 3 hours after passengers had an opportunity to deplane. (4 hours for international flights)
  • The airline must provide water and snacks after 2 hours
  • The flight crew must provide flight updates every 30 minutes
  • The airline must provide working lavatories and appropriate medical care at all times


There are exceptions to the tarmac delay rule for safety, health, and security reasons.

While the DOT does not fine the airlines often, many of the fines it does levy are for  violations of the 3 Hour Rule. In January 2015, the DOT fined Southwest Airlines $1.6 Million for 16 violations of the tarmac delay rule.

The founder of, Kate Hanni, was stranded on the tarmac by American Airlines in Austin, Texas for over 9.5 hours. Passengers like her were trapped without water, food, or working lavatories.