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Fed Hammers Airlines on Delays and Late Flights

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Transportation Department has ruled that chronically delayed flights of large passenger airlines constitute deceptive trade and unfair competition. The agency also is requiring airlines to adopt contingency plans for increasingly common tarmac delays where passengers are held on a plane for hours on end. The airlines are also being told to answer consumer complaints.

Delays will be considered chronic if a flight is operated at least 10 times in a month and arrives more than 30 minutes late (or is canceled) more than half the time.

The department will use the airlines' monthly On-Time Flight Performance Reports to gauge flight delays.

It also will require airlines to adopt customer service plans, which must be put on their Web sites along with the tarmac delay contingency plans and flight delays.

The rules are to take effect April 29.

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