The federal government will impose big fines starting this spring on airlines that keep passengers waiting on the tarmac too long without feeding them or letting them off the plane.Does this rule make sense? At first blush it might sound reasonable, but let's think it through.
Airlines that let a plane sit on the tarmac for more than two hours without giving passengers food or water, or more than three hours without offering them the option of getting off, will face fines of $27,500 a passenger, the secretary of transportation announced on Monday.
Without the rule, some planes that have been sitting for three hours leave soon after the three-hour point, while some sit on the tarmac for an extended, additional period.
The planes in the first category arrive at their destinations even later, becuase it takes time to get passengers off and back on the plance, and because the plane ends up at the back of the line for takeoffs. Worse, some of these flights get cancelled.
So, sometimes the rule benefits passengers, sometimes it makes them worse off.
Does the Department of Transportation have any evidence that the welfare of passengers is higher, on average, under the rule?
No. It has just pandered to customer annoyance and the press coverage of a few extreme incidents. It has responded to what is seen (the long delays that occur without the rule) and ignored what is unseen (the canceled flights and delays that will result from the rule).
Bastiat is spinning in his grave.