How long is too long on a tarmac?

Many people, who have flown frequently, have probably had their plane taxi out to the runway and sit and sit and sit for what seemed like an extraordinarily long amount of time. Peering out the tiny windows, people have wondered, “Why me? Why now?”

They’ve possibly fiddled with the window shade, putting it up for a bit and down for a bit for something to do. After awhile, they can list several items from the airline’s duty free catalog and which movies are on which route. If left sitting there long enough, people may wonder what the tipping point is for a nervous breakdown and if they, perhaps, have wandered into the set of a horror movie. They may even curse their fate that if they must be stuck on an object that’s supposed to move, it’s not the London Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel. If stuck on that thing, people get better service than on an airplane.

With summer travel rapidly approaching, the being stuck out on a tarmac scenarios have not improved much since last year. The gap between what passengers think is a time they can be stuck on an airplane without going bonkers, and the airline industry’s version, is not any closer because there hasn’t been a length of time established for when extra services need to kick in. Airlines view”Trigger thresholds,” within a range from “30 minutes to two hours on arrival, and from 90 minutes to three hours on departure.” When it comes to deplaning, thresholds “range from 30 minutes to five hours on arrival and and between one and five hours on departure.” What is to occur during delays isn’t established either. Do customers get a snack? water? sympathy?

According to this AP article about this stuck on a tarmac issue, to avoid spending part of the summer in a metal cylinder with wings, unsure of when life will move forward, don’t fly in or out of O’Hare in Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul or any of the three major New York City airports. Here’s a detail that gives some insight into why being stuck is not uncommon. Northwest Airlines has 56 departures scheduled for a 15-minute window in Minneapolis/St. Paul. That number is physically impossible to meet.