Stuck on an Airplane -- Legal question

More airplane horror stories.

Why is it illegal for someone to leave a plane that is stuck on a runway? Or is it? Do the airlines have the right to restrain me if I want to leave, and take-off is hours away?

Well for one thing unless there’s a stairway and and transportation vechile present it’s incredibly dangerous to leave a plane on the tarmac, would cause major disruption since someone’s wandering around where planes are supposed to be moving, and one is required by law to obey the air crew as a condition of travel.

OK good. Is this a federal law? Which one? Does it apply as soon as I enter the tunnel? Can a plane that has not moved for hours be said to be traveling? Must I obey every order of a flight crew, or are there conditions under which I have the right to refuse?

To second alphaboi, the FAA doesn’t particularly care for people wandering around runways, taxiways, aprons and the like. Flightlines are incredibly dangerous to begin with–between engines running up and those wickedly fast luggage trolleys, a flightline is just way too damn dangerous for regular civilian types to be meandering about.

For one instance, if a plane is “stuck” on a particular taxiway and it lets it’s passengers off all willy-nilly, they may wander onto an adjacent active taxiway.

The FAA sets this in force, and I’d have to dig into the regulations. And then there’s that pesky law that you must obey the orders of a flight crew.

So yeah, it’s a pain in the ass. But such is the price of your convenience of air travel.

Yes, it is a convenience, not a right.

This is the point where you have to push the situation and see where the line is. We have a real-life case here of 9 1/2 hours. Would a day be too much, 9 1/2 days? There was to be a line somewhere?

I agree with you in the principle of the matter, but being one of those that has spent a lot of time on the flightline, I’d rather not reenact that bomber scene from Raiders.

What this is, is a failure of the airport and the pilot. Airfields need to have a plan in place for something like this, even if it’s designating a “snow parking area” to be plowed after the runways, so the ‘air stairs’ can come and offload people so they can walk into a terminal. Passengers are not disposable income, nor cattle with which you can keep boxed up in a tube.

It’s a failure to plan on a part of the airports.

So what happens if I don’t obey the orders of the flight crew, demanding to be let off the plane? I’ll be arrested, which means I’ll have to be taken off the plane, right? After 9-1/2 hours in a cramped and crowed plane with no food, no water, and overflowing toilets, jail is probably a preferable alternative.

That’s pretty much my thought as well. Raise a stink, get arrested and removed, contact a lawyer and file charges against the airline for imprisonment and arbitrary violation of my civil rights.

Hey man, that’s you’re call. Of course, I may be detained on that airplane for 9 1/2 hours or more, but I’ll be free to leave at my pleasure as soon as I get to the terminal.

I’m not defendin’ or hatin’, I’m just sayin’ . . .

I doubt if you would be taken off the plane any sooner than the rest of the passengers. So, not only would you not get off early, you would face jail after you did. Not a good choice in my book.

That doesn’t excuse the recent behavior of some airlines, ignoring passengers’ reasonable comfort. Something certainly needs to be changed, either in airline practices or government regulations.

Flight regulations are all federal. You can buy a copy at any airport that has a flight school.

So I don’t know if you want to go getting yourself intentionally arrested over this. The feds take a dim view in this day and age of monkeyshines on aircraft.

And in addition to violating federal law by not obeying the flight crew, they could also tack on local or state violations (creating a nuisance, etc…).

Mach Tuck, CFI

I would think that (ahem) some kind of medical emergency would have arisen long before 9 1/2 hrs.

Dontcha think?

And yeah, you’re MUCH safer inside the sardine can than you are on the tarmac. Even if you don’t have to dodge the baggage carts, and even if you don’t just slip on the ice and break your arm as soon as you get off the plane, there’s still a chance you could get ingested by one of the engines of a 757. And NO airline wants to deal with THAT.

I mean, do you have any idea how EXPENSIVE those engines are? :smiley:

Seriously though, I knew a guy who was a mechanic for the Air Force, and he said that anybody working around jet planes was constantly aware of the “Cones of Death”, areas in front of any given jet engine that, if you entered it, you would likely have a spectacularly unpleasant and sudden death. Guys going to tech school to become airplane mechanics in the Air Force get to watch educational videos of Navy guys getting sucked into A-6 Intruders (Aircraft carriers have cameras constantly recording the flight deck activity, most Air Force bases aren’t set up for that, since the activity is spread out over a greater area).

It’s somewhat unlikely that a passenger would have been educated about this concept, and my easily underestimate how far away they’d need to be from an engine, either the front OR the back of it (if you walk BEHIND a jet engine that’s spinning fast enough, you’ll get sent flying through the air some distance before you ungracefully meet the Earth again).

I am still trying to find my link to ERAU’s online library to the FAR/AIM. . . alas, to no avail.

Still lookin’. . .

The FARs, in all of their resplendant glory…

On further searching through the FARs, I think this might apply:

§ 125.328 Prohibition on crew interference.
No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.

These are only regulations, though. I don’t know whats out there, law-wise, regarding something like this.

I’m just a garden-variety CFI, not an aviation lawyer. But as I understand it, an assault on a flight crew member would become a federal offense (in addition to a local or state one) since it’s covered in the FAR’s.

We still haven’t exactly answered whether it is legal to restrain me if I want to leave the airplane. I realize that it may be dangerous, and I accept that danger.

We also have not established if disobeying an order from the flight crew is always unlawful. Surely there are situations where it is not.

On my first trip to New Orleans a thunderstorm prevented us from landing, so we diverted to Baton Rouge to wait it out. Summer in the South. With the engines (and the APU?) shut down, there was no air conditioning. Toilets were full. There was no ice. Why couldn’t we get off of the aircraft? Because United (IIRC) didn’t have a contract to operate out of Baton Rouge. There was no reason other than Corporate Policy to keep everyone onboard. Ironically, a couple of passengers were going to Baton Rouge; but they were flying into MSY and were going to get there by ground. We spent four hours sweltering in the aircraft.

There was one way out: If a passenger was ill, he could be turned over to paramedics. I don’t remember the specifics but the threat was that while a person might get off of the aircraft, he would still be in some form of custody and was not free. A few people took that option.

Finding the actual text of the law should be much easier, but I found it in 49 U.S.C. 46504

Found here: