Delta Worst For Long Tarmac Delays, Southwest Best In Customer Treatment

WASHINGTON (March 11) – Noting 1,232 tarmac delays of 3 hours or more last year, today issued its annual “Airline Stranding Report Card.”

Get your copy here>> 2008 Airline Stranding Report Card

The longest delay, 10+ hours on the tarmac, was on Delta Airlines Flight 1201 from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, FL, on January 16, 2008. With no food, water or temperature controls, passengers were given misleading messages about takeoff times as the plane was de-iced multiple times.

“Too many Americans are trapped in tubes on the tarmac for too long,” said Executive Director Kate Hanni. “It’s time for Congress to limit tarmac delays to 3 hours.” Hanni has lobbied for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights since being stranded herself for 9 hours on an American Airlines flight in 2006.

The report card says Delta had the greatest number of tarmac delays over 3 hours. Southwest Airlines was the best rated, for incorporating into their contract an actionable strategy to move customers off planes stuck on the tarmac and for providing food, water, trash removal, toilet cleaning and temperature controls.

The report was based on a combination of media accounts, government statistics and verified eyewitness accounts sent in to its website (

This year’s Special Award winners included:

  • Delta won the “When you are on the ground they treat you like dirt” Award, for having the most and longest strandings and the most callous disregard for passengers.
  • American Airlines won the “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” Award, for diverting a 13 hour flight from Japan to Detroit, where it sat on the tarmac for 7.5 hours, forcing passengers to spend 20.5 hours on board. Vomit was in the sink and toilets, and the toilets were inoperable.
  • US Airways won the “Nausea” Award for having the worst overflowing toilets.
  • Southwest Airlines won the “My Heavens” award for best airline overall, since Southwest maintains a “contract of carriage” that protects passengers against strandings.

“It’s not just a matter of passenger convenience, it’s a matter of public safety. I wonder if heroic Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and his crew could have performed as they did after 7, 9 or even 12 hours on the tarmac?” Hanni asked.