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travel tips: Flight Delays

Dan Saelinger

Flight Delays

You won’t have to worry about tarmac delays—but cancellations may be on the rise.

Long waits on the tarmac have decreased since April 2010, when the DOT began fining airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for delays of more than three hours. The downside: airlines seem more likely to cancel a flight rather than risk a fine. In the 12 months before the DOT’s rule went into effect, 63,948 flights were canceled at the nation’s 29 busiest airports. In the following year, that figure increased 19 percent to 75,867. In the five months after the new rule, flights stuck on the tarmac between two and three hours were more than three times as likely to be canceled than flights in the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. (The DOT says the GAO figures are flawed.) A bright spot? Even with the increase, cancellations affect fewer than 2 percent of all flights.

T+L Tip: Fly at midday, the least congested time, or on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, the least crowded days, according to George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have a better chance of finding a seat on another plane.


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