Airlines hoping for exemptions at some airports to the tarmac delay rule going into effect next week are out of luck.
The Department of Transportation denied requests Thursday 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.
"Passengers on flights delayed on the tarmac have a right to know they will not be held aboard a plane indefinitely," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "This is an important consumer protection, and we believe it should take effect as planned."
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."
"We thank the Department for recognizing that there are unique challenges at New York's Kennedy and will take that into account when deciding whether to pursue civil penalties," American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said in response to the ruling.
Airlines could re-route or reschedule JFK flights to minimize congestion, the department said.