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flightsBy Joe Brancatelli

When the Transportation Department “ended” the debate over passenger’s rights by creating new regulations that would slam airlines with huge fines if they held travelers “hostage” on planes for morethan three hours, only the most credulous observers expected the carriers to capitulate. Now the counter-attack has begun, before the DOT rules actually go into effect on April 29.

Citing the four-month closure of the main runway at New York’s Kennedy Airport starting March 1, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines requested a waiver of the tarmac-hold rules at JFK untilDecember. The logic: The runway closure might gridlock Kennedy and cause the long tarmac holds that the DOT wants to stop and that passengers despise. It also ignores a key part of the new regulations, which allows the rules to be waived if air traffic controllers decide returning planes to the gate would jeopardize airport operations.

But the ultimate refutation of the airlines’ claims that they need relief at JFK comes from David Barger, JetBlue’s president and chief executive. While JetBlue was making its application for a waiver, Barger boasted at an airline-investment conference that he was “very encouraged” by JetBlue’s performance at JFK since the runway closure. In fact, he claimed JetBlue’s on-time arrival rate at JFK was 82 percent during the first eight days after March 1.

And now US Airways wants a waiver of the passenger’s rights regulations for its hub in Philadelphia on the theory that Philadelphia International Airport shares airspace with New York.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

Tagged: New York

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