Getting Trapped on a Hot Airplane for 7 Hours Doesn’t Entitle You to Money, Sadly

It turns out that this nightmare of an experience is not something that gets you any extra cash.


I was trapped on a hot, un-air conditioned United flight for two hours in Newark last May, and while it was not even that hot outside, the experience left many passengers on the flight panicking, and some of the men strategizing on how they could open the doors to get us off the plane themselves. It was miserable, chaotic, and I am not too proud to admit that I had a pretty severe anxiety attack about 45 minutes in.

An even unluckier group of people were stuck on the Newark tarmac for a whopping seven hours last month, when a United flight from Newark to Rome was delayed and ultimately canceled. Videos posted online showed the passengers rallying together at the end of the ordeal asking for compensation and explanations. Reportedly, the issue causing the delay came from a faulty air conditioning system-meaning that there really was no cool air moving through that flight.

“On July 3, United flight 40 returned to the gate at Newark Liberty to address a temperature issue. Once there, we offered customers the opportunity to deplane and later provided snacks and beverages,” a statement from United Airlines to USA Today said. “Our crew eventually exceeded their legally permitted duty hours and we had to cancel the flight. We regret we couldn’t provide our customers a better travel experience and offered compensation in the hopes of having an opportunity to welcome them back.”

While we don’t have the details on how exactly this group of unfortunate passengers was compensated, a close reading of the Department of Transportation’s policies regarding tarmac delays reveals that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you should not expect much from airlines. Here’s what you can expect (only at U.S. airports), according to the DOT website:

  • For flights landing at US airports, airlines are required to provide passengers with an opportunity to safely get off of the airplane before three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights.
  • During a tarmac delay, airlines must provide you with a snack, such as a granola bar, and drinking water no later than two hours after the start of the tarmac delay.
  • Airlines do not have to serve passengers full meals during a tarmac delay, even if the tarmac delay lasts for a lengthy period of time.
  • Airlines are required to provide passengers with a notification regarding the status of the delay when the tarmac delay exceeds 30 minutes. Thereafter, airlines may provide subsequent updates, including flight status changes, as they deem appropriate.
  • Airlines are also required to provide working toilets, comfortable cabin temperatures; and adequate medical attention, if needed.

The airlines are not required to provide financial compensation for tarmac delays; in the instance of the Newark to Rome flight, passengers were eligible for a flight refund for the cancellation of the flight, not the delay itself. In a similar situation on the tarmac in Las Vegas, Delta Air Lines is actually under investigation by the Department of Transportation for the length of time passengers spent sitting in triple-digit temperatures without air conditioning.

I think everyone involved should reevaluate this policy, especially considering that tarmacs are getting hotter and delays are becoming more frequent.

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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