This belief goes along with the logic that “The airlines should have come up with a solution when they had the chance (which they had for YEARS). And – again – they not only did nothing; they basically “stuck it” to the government and the flying public”.
Some facts for you:
In 2006, 36 out of 7,141,922 flights reported had delays of more than five hours after pushing back from the gate. That is just 0.0005 percent, or five ten-thousandths of a percent.
Delays and cancellations are the enemies of every airline. DOT has estimated the cost of delays to U.S. airline passengers in 2005 at $9.4 billion. At $62 in direct operating costs per minute of flight delay, DOT has estimated that in 2005 delays cost airlines an additional $5.9 billion.
The TRUTH and point here is “tarmac horror stories” are extremely rare in the big picture and hurt airlines as much as passengers (if not more).
The TRUTH is most passengers prefer to take the chance of delays than to have their flights canceled.
To my knowledge, all “tarmac horror stories” have involved unforeseeable weather situations and delays. Having stranded passengers is an unfortunate situation not an intentional one.
If you are flying from DFW to FLL where bad weather or delays are forecast. You can rest assure your flight has a contingency plan. MIA or MCO may be alternate airports where extra fuel can be boarded. Sure you don't want to go to MIA or MCO but this has to be an option for additional fuel or services your flight might need before it can land in FLL.
Airplanes are designed to have flexibility in their normal mode of operation but are limited by fuel and passenger or load configuration. Any airplane cannot fly forever, it can run out of gas just like your car might except you have more options.
Therefore, even with a contingency plan to get you safely to your destination without a “tarmac horror story”, your flight will have limitations.
Airlines gain nothing by creating these situations and I can guarantee you they do their best to avoid them as the statistics from 2006 prove. Again, only 36 out of 7,141,922 flights reported had delays of more than five hours after pushing back from the gate.
Yet, if you consider a 0.0005 % occurrence rate as airlines not being responsible or doing less than nothing then I am afraid you have an unrealistic expectation of airlines and air travel.
This is hardly a case of “stick it to the government and the flying public” and The Passenger's Bill Of Rights is useless government intervention. For sure you will see less “tarmac horror stories”.
Often comparison is made to EU regulations but they are mostly meaningless. The EU operates it airlines and airspace differently than in the US. Furthermore, European passengers have other reliable means of public transportation and the volume of air traffic does not compare to US operations. An airline with 600 daily departures can hardly be compared to one with 3,400.