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09 November 2009

134 Flights Delayed on Tarmac for Four or More Hours from January to August 2009

In the last several years, airlines in the US have occasionally received very negative media attention when an aircraft gets stuck on a tarmac for several hours as passengers wait helplessly for relief. Sometimes the terminal is literally right outside their window, but they have no choice but to sit and suffer.

These events often make the news, but not always. The US Department of Transportation (DOT), which includes the FAA, has quietly included some very detailed information about these events. Reviewing their monthly Air Travel Consumer Report reveals some very interesting information. According to recent reports that cover January through August 2009, there have been a number of occasions where one of the 19 airlines required to report such data to the DOT by this report have had tarmac delays of over four hours.

Delay Summary
From January to August 2009, there were 134 occasions where a regularly scheduled flight was delayed four our more hours on the tarmac. The longest delay was seven hours and 43 minutes. The airline with the most delays in this list was Delta with 32. Of the 19 airlines tracked by the DOT, four, Alaska, Frontier, Hawaiian, and Skywest, had no flight with tarmac delays of four hours or more.

If you would like more information, such as the origin and destination airport, or the date of the occurrence, you can view the spreadsheet with the delay information

Airline Codes Used in the Air Travel Consumer Report
If you take the time to download these reports, you may have to decode some of the two-letter airline codes used in the document. The codes for the 19 airlines reporting key consumer data to the DOT are below:

FL AirTran Airways
AS Alaska Airlines
AA American Airlines
MQ American Eagle Airlines
EV Atlantic Southeast Airlines
OH Comair
CO Continental Airlines
DL Delta Air Lines
XE ExpressJet Airlines
F9 Frontier Airlines
HA Hawaiian Airlines
B6 JetBlue Airways
YV Mesa Airlines
NW Northwest Airlines
9E Pinnacle Airlines*
OO SkyWest Airlines
WN Southwest Airlines
UA United Airlines
US US Airways

Airlines in bold had no tarmac delays in excess of four hours during the first eight months of 2009.

Pinnacle Airlines volunteered to submit their data. The other 18 must report based on requirements of the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


  1. I just started reading Capt. Sullenberger's book, and he comments that his hourly (!) pay starts at the moment of pushback from the gate. Seems unfair to me, since preflight planning and aircraft preflight are part of his essential duties. But moreover, this policy would be a disincetive for a pilot to remain at the gate for the comfort of passengers when a long delay on the ramp was anticipated.

    Samuel E. Cook, P.E.

  2. Sullenberg's quick actions, condiderable skills and cool nerves saved all the passengers' lives on that fateful day he made the miraculous landing on the Hudson River. Also aved was the multi-million dollar plane he was piloting.

    How ironic that had the jet plane's engines been fitted either with the same sort of intake shield built into the engine of the CF-105 Mk-1 AVRO ARROW interceptor delta wing jet fighter developed and flown by A.V.Roe Inc. of Canada in the late 1950s or the combination air brake and jet engine shield patented in 1979 by U.S. inventor Anthony Fox, the near-tragedy on the Potomac could have been averted, as could have many other such bird-intake accidents/crashes!

    As noted shortly after the Sullenberg heroic landing by John Goglia, formerly a member of the National Safety Transportation Board: "If aircraft manufacturers can design a missile shiled, why not a Canada Goose shield?"