The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined American Airlines a record $1.6 million for violating rules prohibiting long tarmac delays. This is the highest fine against an airline for violating the tarmac delay rule, and matches the fine against Southwest Airlines in 2015
Under the DOT rules, U.S. airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane. Exceptions are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons. The rules further mandate airlines provide adequate food and water, ensure that aircraft toilets are working and, provide medical attention to passengers if needed.
The department’s Aviation Enforcement office found that in 2013 and 2015, American Airlines allowed a number of domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without providing passengers an opportunity to de-plane: 20 flights at Charlotte International Airport on February 16, 2013, six flights at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on February 27, 2015, and one flight at Shreveport Regional Airport in Louisiana on October 22, 2015.
The delays at Charlotte occurred during a snowstorm which the airline and its regional partners failed to properly assess and prepare for. At Dallas-Fort Worth, heavy snow and rain were the cause, and the delay at Shreveport was at least partially due to the carrier’s mismanagement of personnel and resources.
One can only hope that the DGCA and Ministry of Civil Aviation in India uses this as inspiration to truly protect passengers’ rights.