American Airlines hit with $4.1 million fine for violating tarmac delay rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation fined American Airlines a record $4.1 million for violating rules that prohibit airlines from keeping passengers on domestic flights on the tarmac for three hours or more.

In a statement Monday, the DOT said an investigation by its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection found that American kept “dozens” of domestic flights “stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time without letting passengers off.”

Between 2021 and 2018, it said, American allowed 43 flights to remain on the tarmac for extensive periods without giving passengers the opportunity to deplane, and in one circumstance, passengers were not provided with food and water as required.

The DOT said the fine was its largest ever levied against an airline for tarmac-delay violations. It also said that $2.05 million would be credited back to American for compensation it provided to passengers on those flights.

The violations primarily occurred at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, an American hub. In all, 5,821 passengers were affected.

According to an AP report, many of the delays were weather related, and American was not able to manage its airport gates to let passengers off. The airline said in a consent order that it provided compensation to delayed passengers and has since “devoted more management attention to avoiding delays,” according to the report. 

American’s fine might be the biggest yet for tarmac delays, but it’s certainly not the first – nor the first for American. The DOT fined the airline $1.6 million back in 2016 for tarmac-delay violations. It levied a $1.9 million fine against United in 2021 for allowing 20 domestic and five international flights between 2015 and 2021 to sit for too long; Southwest and others have also been hit with penalties.

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