“Get Us Off This Plane!”

When you’re trapped on an airliner, Kate Hanni wants to help.

(Courtesy Kate Hanni)

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Airline folks are for sure going to say “No” to changing the way they operate or helping out the flying public, and Congress will at least pretend to help.

What’s the most discouraging part of the lobbying work?

Hanni: The most discouraging part of what we do isn’t the difficulties dealing with Congress or the DOT, it’s the fake groups that have sprung up saying they are airline passengers rights groups when they are actually either lobbyists for the industry or being bribed by the industry to suck up the space that we created for true airline passengers rights advocacy. I’ve become much more cynical than I used to be about the government and how corporate America runs our government.

What’s the present status of the three-hour rule?

Hanni: The rule is in place since April of 2010 and is working very well. The airlines have managed to cut the tarmac events of three hours or more to a statistical zero. And the airlines have stopped complaining about the rule, so from my point of view and with on-time departures and arrivals getting better, the rule appears to have created a sort of forced efficiency in the system. No longer can airlines overschedule at peak hours and allow jets to warehouse people on tarmacs; they now have to live within their means, if you know what I mean!

Under what circumstances are airliners allowed to exceed it?

Hanni: If the airport or air traffic control cannot allow the jet in due to terrorism, a pandemic or other critical issue, or if it would truly disrupt airport operations, or if there were a hurricane or force majeure [an extreme circumstance or event that cannot be controlled], one that truly prevents a plane from pulling up to a gate.

At present, the three-hour limit is a DOT rule, which can be overturned by a new president, and not a federal law, which is permanent. What do you think it would take to turn the rule into a law?

Hanni: I think if we were to have a Republican administration that had the will to overturn the DOT rule…and the tarmac incidents began increasing and the public outcry were loud enough, we would get an actual law. But isn’t it a shame that is the way it works?

What’s the resistance?

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