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Rule On Tarmac Delays Is Working Well, Transportation Secretary Says

Southwest Airlines planes sat idle at Love Field airport in Dallas as snow fell on Feb. 4, 2011. i i

Southwest Airlines planes sat idle at Love Field airport in Dallas as snow fell on Feb. 4, 2011. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Gay/AP
Southwest Airlines planes sat idle at Love Field airport in Dallas as snow fell on Feb. 4, 2011.

Southwest Airlines planes sat idle at Love Field airport in Dallas as snow fell on Feb. 4, 2011.

Eric Gay/AP

This winter, many airports have been hit hard by blizzards and ice storms. But unlike previous winters, no horrifying news stories have emerged about stranded airline passengers. Passengers have not been complaining about sitting amid overflowing toilets for 10 hours on a snowy tarmac.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking Tuesday with a group of NPR reporters and editors, gave credit to the tarmac-delay rule his department implemented last April. So far, it has prevented long tarmac delays for domestic flights without significantly increasing the number of canceled flights, he said.

The rule imposes steep fines on U.S. carriers for leaving on-board travelers stranded for more than three hours. "We believe that we got it right," he said. "And airlines recognize it's a rule they can live with."

(Marilyn Geewax is senior business editor on NPR's National Desk.)

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