Recently. the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined a major US airline $1.9 million for violating federal statutes and the Department’s rule prohibiting long tarmac delays. The airline was also ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations. This is the largest fine issued by the Department for tarmac delay violations.
An extensive investigation by the Department’s Office of Aviation
Consumer Protection (OACP) found that between December 2015 and February 2021, the airline allowed 20 domestic flights and 5 international flights at various airports throughout the United States to remain on the tarmac for a lengthy period of time without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane. The tarmac delays affected a total of 3,218 passengers.
Under the DOT tarmac delay rule, airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than 3 hours at U.S. airports. International flights are prohibited to remain on the tarmac for more than 4 hours at U.S. airports without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane. The rule took effect 2010 and was expanded to include international flights in 2011. An exception exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point in order to deplane passengers by those times. An exception to the time limit is also allowed for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons. The rule also requires airlines to provide adequate food and water, ensure that lavatories are working and, if necessary, provide medical attention to passengers during long tarmac delays.