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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to discuss Tuesday the new tarmac delay rule that goes into effect before the end of the week.

The rule, set to take effect Thursday, is designed to prevent planes on domestic routes from sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours with passengers on board.

Airlines who violate the rule could face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger, the maximum allowed for violating any aviation consumer rule.

“Passengers on flights delayed on the tarmac have a right to know they will not be held aboard a plane indefinitely,” LaHood said in a statement last week.

“This is an important consumer protection, and we believe it should take effect as planned.”

On Thursday, the Department of Transportation denied requests from JetBlue, Delta, Continental, American and US Airways for exceptions to the rule, which were prompted by runway construction at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, one of the nation’s most congested airports.

Delta and American Airlines also requested exemptions at JFK, and Continental Airlines followed with its own request that added neighboring LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports.

US Airways asked for a similar exemption at its hub at Philadelphia International Airport, arguing that “it shares the same airspace, is part of the same air traffic control center (New York Center), and has the same congestion challenges as JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.”

In its ruling, the department indicated that it may take the construction at JFK into account “when deciding whether to pursue enforcement action for failing to comply with the rule and the amount of the fine, if any, to seek as a result of noncompliance.”

Airlines could re-route or reschedule JFK flights to minimize congestion, the department said.

Airline passenger advocate Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org and a supporter of the tarmac delay rule, is pleased the exemptions were denied.

“We are both thrilled and gratified that DOT has taken a hard stand against long tarmac delays as a safety issue. We believe that 700 million travelers a year will benefit knowing they can reasonably predict the outcome of their flight knowing they cannot be held longer than 3 hours in a sealed metal tube!” Hanni said via e-mail last week.

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Article courtesy cnn.com

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