These Are Your Rights When You're Stuck on an Airplane

Plane delays are bad enough when you're waiting in the terminal. If you're unlucky enough to get caught onboard the aircraft, you could be looking at hours on the runway. It's a customer service nightmare, and it's easy to feel helpless, but you've got more options than venting on Twitter.

MarketWatch wrote this week about a medical emergency that recently grounded an international flight for 16 hours. Thanks to mechanical issues and staffing shortages, more than 250 passengers lost more than 17 hours to the delay. While this incident was more extreme than most, there are protocols in place for significant setbacks while traveling by air.

U.S. law states after an airplane has stood on a tarmac for two hours, "the airline must provide passengers with food, water, operational lavatories, and medical care," according to MarketWatch. If that stretches to three hours on a domestic flight (or four hours on an international flight), passengers must be given the option to exit the aircraft. Part of this comes down to legal liability: If passengers suffer damages, including health-related damages, the airline must cover up to $5,700 for each passenger.

Unfortunately, things can get a little sticky if you're not inside the United States. The international flight in the MarketWatch piece originated at Newark International Airport, just outside New York, but it was on its way to Hong Kong and got stuck in Newfoundland, Canada. In between this, miniscule toilets, rising baggage fees, aggravating security measures, and regulatory limbo, you might want to check out FlyersRights.org to prep for your next flight.