Sunday, May 13, 2007



Trapped on the Tarmac

An Airline Passenger Bill of Rights now being considered in Congress would give passengers the option of getting off any plane that has languished on the tarmac for more than three hours.

How often does that happen, anyway?

At the airport with the worst record last year -- New York's JFK -- 169 planes filled with passengers sat for more than three hours. That represented way fewer than 1 percent of all departing flights -- 0.15 percent, to be exact.

At Washington Dulles last year, 26 planes sat for more than three hours , according to records provided by the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. At Reagan National, the same number. Most sat between three and four hours, but thre e planes at Dulles and five at Reagan were stuck between four hours one minute and five hours. None waited more than five hours. At both airports, the three-hour-plus delays affected 0.03 percent of departures.

The record at BWI was better: 12 planes filled with no-doubt restless passengers sat between three and four hours; none sat longer than that. Those represented 0.01 percent of all departing flights.

The airline industry argues that putting a time limit on the waits would rob airlines of needed flexibility and that it can be dangerous to unload passengers during a storm. And what if passengers who have waited three hours are within minutes of taking off, but one person still wants to return to the gate and the plane thus loses its place in the takeoff line? Proponents -- the woman who started the push for the legislation was inspired by a wait of more than eight hours in Austin last December -- say some limits must be set.

Have a strong opinion? Contact your members of Congress.


Losing Liquid Assets

Rules restricting the amount of liquids and gels that can be carried on board an aircraft are spreading around the world. Among the countries that adopted rules this spring: Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Tunisia and Morocco.

Although limits are expressed in metric units in those countries and in the European Union, you'll be close enough if you follow the United States' 3-1-1 rule: You may carry on board as many three-ounce containers as will fit in one one-quart zip-top plastic bag.

But confusion reigns when it comes to duty-free liquids and gels that exceed the 3-1-1 limit. E.U. nations, for example, allow you to bring on board duty-free items sealed in special " tamper-evident " packages bought inside the secure area of a terminal. But what happens if you fly into a non-E.U. country and transfer to another flight? Depends on what country. If you land in South Korea and change planes , no problem. Land in the United States or Japan and try to board another flight, though, and your specially packaged duty-free items will be confiscated.

European retailers are working to standardize the rules. Meanwhile, before laying down your cash for wine or perfume or such, check the rules of all countries where you'll touch down.


Live bands perform on stages erected at mile markers at the 10th annual Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego on June 3. Details: . . . Get a voucher for free gas at participating B&Bs by mentioning when booking that you found the property at


Thai Line

Fly Cathay Pacific from New York to Thailand for $784 (plus taxes). Round-trip fare to Bangkok is $868 (including $84 taxes); fare to Phuket is $883 (including $99 taxes). Depart Sept. 1-Nov. 30. On other airlines, fare to Bangkok starts at $1,160 from New York and $1,215 from Washington; fare to Phuket typically starts at about $1,260 from New York and $1,390 from Washington. Purchase by May 31 at

Reporting: Cindy Loose

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