DALLAS —The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has imposed a US$4.1 million fine on American Airlines (AA) for violating federal statutes and the Department’s rule on tarmac delays. The investigation revealed that AA had kept numerous flights on the tarmac for extended periods without allowing passengers to deplane, a clear breach of regulations.
The fine, the largest ever issued for tarmac delay violations, serves as a stern warning to airlines, according to a DOT press release, of its commitment to safeguarding the rights of air travelers. The department added that it has already refunded over US$2.5 billion to affected passengers.
Details of the Investigation
Between 2018 and 2021, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection discovered that AA had allowed 43 domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for significant durations without providing passengers the opportunity to deplane, in direct violation of the tarmac delay rule. None of the exceptions to the rule, including safety and security concerns, applied to these flights. Furthermore, on one of the affected flights, passengers were not provided with the required food and water.
The majority of these delays occurred at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), impacting a total of 5,821 passengers. In light of the penalty, AA will pay US$2.05 million, which will be credited to the airline as compensation for affected passengers. The DOT says this approach encourages airlines to directly compensate passengers and ensures that a portion of the fine is used to rectify the inconvenience caused.
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Featured image: N744P & N745VJ American Airlines Airbus A319 KPHX PHX. Photo: Chris Goulet/Airways