The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has levied a $4.1 million fine on American Airlines over delays in getting passengers off of planes during extended tarmac delays.
The fine is for American breaking the DOT’s rules that govern how airlines are supposed to treat passengers during extended tarmac delays. According to the DOT, a “tarmac delay occurs when an airplane on the ground is either awaiting takeoff or has just landed and passengers do not have the opportunity to get off the plane.”
While there are some exceptions, airlines are generally required to move planes in order to provide passengers with an opportunity to safely get off of the airplane before 3 hours for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights. They are also required to provide food and water during the delay, along with working toilets, comfortable temperatures, and adequate medical attention, if needed.
According to the DOT’s lawsuit, American did not comply with the rules over 40 times between 2018 and 2021, including one incident where American did not provide food or water as required. In total, the incidents, most of which occurred at Dallas Fort Worth International, affected 5,821 passengers.
“This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Whether the issue is extreme tarmac delays or problems getting refunds, DOT will continue to protect consumers and hold airlines accountable.”
The $4.1 million fine is the largest civil penalty that the DOT has ever assessed for violating the tarmac delay rule. Of the $4.1 million, more than $2 million will be credited to the airline for compensation provided to passengers on the affected flights.
American, for its part, said that the 43 flights are just a small number of its schedule during the period in question—less than 1%--and that it has dedicated itself to avoiding future delays.