[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/21/art.plane.gi.jpg caption="The DOT has put a three-hour limit on tarmac delays."]Washington (CNN) - Taking action against air travel nightmares, the Department of Transportation ordered airlines on Monday to allow passengers stranded on airport tarmacs to deplane after three hours.
After a series of horror stories, including one in which passengers were stranded overnight on a plane in Rochester, Minnesota last summer, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that in the future, passengers will be allowed to disembark after three hours.
"Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly," LaHood said in a statement.
This rule will apply to domestic flights, with exceptions only for safety or security issues, or if air traffic control advises the pilot that returning to the terminal would disrupt operations. U.S. airlines operating international flights will have to specify their time limits for deplaning passengers in advance.
Airlines will also have to provide food and drinking water within two hours of the plane being grounded and maintain operable lavatories throughout the delay. Airlines will also be prohibited from scheduling chronically delayed flights, and if the airlines don't comply, they could face government enforcement for unfair and deceptive practices.
DOT plans to submit the rule to the Federal Registrar on Tuesday and it will go into effect 120 days after it's published. The agency plans to take further action to protect air travelers and may consider rules in the future to make airlines disclose baggage fees and require airline ads to disclose the full fare of plane tickets, according to a statement.