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Airplane TarmacWe don’t want to jinx anything here, but hours-long tarmac delays might (finally!) be a thing of the past.

It’s been one year since the Department of Transportation implemented a rule preventing aircraft from spending more than two hours on the tarmac without taking off or letting passengers deplane. Since then, the number of three-hour (or longer) delays reported nationwide has dropped from 693 (from May 2009 to April 2010) to only 20 (from May 2010 to April 2011).


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Even better: The number of canceled flights stayed relatively level. In the 2009-2010 data, 336 flights that waited on the tarmac for more than two hours never took off; the following year, that number jumped to 387.


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The delay drop isn’t too surprising, since the DOT threatened airlines with fines of up to $27,500 per passenger if they violated the policy – a hefty sum on even the tiniest commuter planes. Even so, we’ll take some government strong-arming if it means that during delays we get to leave the plane, buy some food, and hang tight in a (slightly) larger chair near the gate.

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