At first glance, it seems as if it may make perfect sense to impose a fine on international flights that exceed more than a specific amount of tarmac delay time. After all, it reinforces the point that passengers should not be delayed longer than necessary when it comes to their personal and business travel.

However, the tarmac fines being imposed on airlines in the U.S. may offer little comfort to passengers who experienced tarmac delays in excess of one hour for 64,393 domestic U.S. flights in 2009. And airlines will be forced to cover these fines through ticket prices and fees.

Currently, international carriers are being asked to establish their own contingency plans, determine maximum tarmac delay time limits, and notify passengers of their options.

Unlike domestic flights in the U.S., tarmac delays and their causes for international flights are not currently counted, so it would be difficult for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to assign a fine for situations that take longer than three hours. However, this option has not been taken off the table, says DOT spokesman Bill Mosely.

The DOT plans to establish more consumer rules related to tarmac delays and contingency plan expectations this summer, so it will be interesting to learn whether the domestic rules will apply to U.S. outbound and inbound international flights.

But before the U.S. DOT establishes any fines on international flights, it should address and resolve the domestic causes that contribute to all tarmac delays.

Originally Published April 14, 2010