WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation Monday limited the time passenger planes can be held on runways to three hours.
Reacting to accounts of passengers kept on planes for as long as 11 hours waiting for take-off or to get to a terminal, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement, "Airline passengers have rights and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligations to treat their customers fairly."
Airlines argued allowing passengers to disembark would be unsafe and costly and increase cancellations, The Washington Post reported Monday.
But the horror stories of passengers held hostage in planes stalled on the ground for hours have been building up. This year, from January to June, 613 flights were delayed for three hours or more with passengers inside, the Post said.
The DOT fined Continental Airlines, ExpressJet and Mesaba Airlines $175,000 last month for a keeping 47 passengers on board a thunderstorm-delayed plane for six hours. The new rule allows a fine of $27,500 per person for keeping passengers on board longer than the allowable limit.
The rules, which go in to effect in April, also say the government could prosecute airlines under deceptive marketing rules if they maintain routes that are chronically delayed, the newspaper said.