The feds have ruled that the longest an airline can hold you prisoner on a delayed airliner is three hours.
The Obama administration took aim Monday at tarmac horror stories, ordering airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes get off the plane after three hours. With its new regulations, the Transportation Department sent an unequivocal message on the eve of the busy holiday travel season: Don’t hold travelers hostage to delayed flights. The Air Transport Association, a trade group that represents U.S. airlines, said in a statement that carriers would comply with the new rule even though the group contends it will lead to canceled flights and greater passenger inconvenience. Under the new regulations, airlines operating domestic flights will be able only to keep passengers on board for three hours before they must be allowed to disembark a delayed flight. The regulation provides exceptions only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.
Foreign carriers are not covered by the new rule.