DOT Hands United $1.9 Million Fine for Tarmac Delays

The Department of Transportation on Friday handed United Airlines a $1.9 million fine for breaking rules related to how long airlines can keep passengers on the tarmac when a flight is delayed.

Regulations established in 2010 prohibit U.S. carriers from being grounded without access to the terminal for no more than three hours on a domestic flight, and four hours for international trips.

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But, according to Fox Business News, an investigation by the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection found that United violated these regulations during 20 domestic flights and five international flights over the last six years.

DOT said the violations affected 3,218 passengers between December 2015 and February 2021.

The longest delay occurred in April 2016 when passengers were forced to stay on a grounded plane for more than five hours at the New Orleans International Airport after being diverted from Houston, Texas due to inclement weather.

The $1.9 million is broken down as: $950,000 due to the DOT within 30 days; $750,000 in credit to compensate inconvenienced passengers; and $200,000 will be credited to create a tool that will boost the airline’s Network Operations Center to avoid more grounded flights, the consent order noted.

Avoiding more grounded flights will be critical if United CEO Scott Kirby is to be believed when he says a full recovery of the airline industry could happen by January of 2022.

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