Contingency plan for lengthy tarmac delays

In case of operational challenges or lengthy delays while customers are on board of the aircraft, we’ve designed an extensive plan to adjust to the situation.


Before delays occur, KLM has a comprehensive plan designed to adjust to operational challenges and lengthy delays while customers are on board the aircraft. The Operations Control Centre (OCC) at KLM’s headquarters is responsible for the execution of this plan, while keeping in mind the safety and wellbeing of our customers. The Department of Transportation's (DOT) tarmac delay rule establishes time limits for tarmac delays. KLM’s plan meets the limits imposed by this ruling. KLM assures its customers that it will not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours before allowing customers to deplane. The following exceptions to the hard time limits apply to international flights:

  • Safety or security reasons.
  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

Plan requirements

KLM’s contingency plan ensures that KLM has sufficient resources and will meet the requirements of the DOT for extended tarmac delays. This includes the four-hour time limit for international flights. The plan ensures that KLM will meet specified guidelines pertaining to providing:

  • Adequate food and drinking water no later than two hours after the aircraft leaves the gate (in case of departure) or touches down (in case of arrival) if the aircraft remains on the tarmac.
  • Operable lavatory facilities.
  • Medical attention.
  • Other customer comfort needs.

Unless the pilot in command determines that safety or security considerations preclude such service. This plan has been coordinated with airport authorities, as specified below.


The KLM Operations Control Centre (OCC) is responsible for the overall coordination and compliance to the plan. They will work closely with airport customer service, flight operations and in-flight service to carry out the plan at station and flight level.

Station plan

The plan builds upon the standard operating procedures now in place to handle extended on-board delays and diversions. All stations have identified resources and developed procedures that will allow them to effectively bring a plane off the runway and open the door, giving the customers the opportunity to deplane within specified time limits. All US airport stations served by KLM, including regular U.S. diversion airports, have coordinated with the airport authority, the terminal operators, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration to meet the tarmac delay rule’s requirement. This includes back-up methods for inoperative equipment and provisioning and servicing aircraft. In-flight announcements will be made when the departure or arrival delay (including arrival at a diversion airport) exceeds 30 minutes, and thereafter as soon as updated information becomes available. The announcement will at least: Identify the reason for the delay. Explain the possible effect of the DOT's tarmac delay rule. In-flight announcements will be made during a departure or arrival delay (including when the aircraft is parked at a diversion airport awaiting departure to the intended destination) notifying passengers they may deplane each time the opportunity exists to deplane at a suitable disembarkation location. Throughout the flight delay, communication between KLM’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) and the flight crew will be continual. Both the OCC and flight crew will monitor the general environment and wellbeing of the customers at all times. KLM will make best decisions considering the wellbeing of all customers aboard the affected flight.

Last updated: 16 August 2021