Why does American announce that “this is your last chance to deplane before the aircraft door is closed?”

Over the last 2 months, there’s been a bit of chatter on MilePoint and FlyerTalk of a new pre-departure announcement the flight attendants on the new American are using.

Essentially, they’re advising passengers “this is your last chance to deplane prior to the cabin door being closed.” It’s an awkward message, and something that’s making heads turn since passengers don’t know what it’s referring to. Why would you board a plane and then leave prior to it taking off?

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Well, it looks like there’s an explanation – and it comes from the Department of Transportation.

Thanks to T/BE20/G on FlyerTalk for the thorough explanation:

The line was added as a result of the DOT long onboard delay rules that took effect some time ago. The legal standard for these delays is not time elapsed since door closure, but rather time elapsed since passengers last had the ability to deplane. The announcement formally makes people aware that they are able to deplane immediately before door closure, and thus ensures that nobody can later claim that they were on the plane more than 3 hours without the ability to deplane. For example, if passenger X boards 20 minutes prior to door closure, this prevents them from claiming that 3 hours has passed 2:40 after door closure. By clearly establishing that passengers can deplane immediately preceding door closure, the clock can start fresh, unquestionably, at door closure, for compliance with the onboard delay requirements.

This is an interesting explanation, though certainly logical given today’s fairly stringent rules on delays, and the compensation airlines need to provide when things go wrong.

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So, the next time you’re on an AA or US flight, stay on board! It’s so the government can take take advantage of their own requirement. 🙂

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