Flight Delays More Common Than Reported

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Sitting on the tarmac for hours may be far more common than the airline industry lets on.

Time Magazine reports on how the Airline Industry relies on statistics it reports to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to refute the image of long delays.

According to the Bureau's Statistics, only 36 flights sat on the tarmac for more than 5 hours in 2006. That seems low compared to the 7.2 million flights a year the industry carries. But, those statistics leave out flights that end up cancelled, flights that sit on the tarmac due to having been diverted, and flights that return to the terminal as part of the delay.

One such incident involved American Airlines flight 1348, which was supposed to fly from San Francisco to Dallas on Dec. 29. The flight was among the 69 that American diverted that day because of storms in Texas. Passengers aboard flight 1348 ended up landing in Austin and sitting on a tarmac there for almost nine hours before they were allowed to deplane because no gate was ready. But according to the BTS records, flight 1348 was simply "diverted." "It's like our flight didn't even exist," says Kate Hanni, a passenger onboard flight 1348, which she says had overflowing toilets and little food or water. She went on to found the Coalition for an Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights, a grassroots organization that is lobbying Congress to federally mandate that all tarmac delays be capped at four hours. When Mark Mogel, a member of Hanni's coalition, logged onto the BTS website to find data on Hanni's flight delay, he turned up empty-handed.

When you see news of pending legislation involving things like a passenger bill of rights, remember these shady reporting practices and let you congress critter know you support the bill.

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