American Airlines is facing the largest fine issued to any airline in history by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for tarmac delays.
According to the DOT, the Fort Worth-based airline is in violation of federal statutes and the Department’s rule prohibiting tarmac delays of three hours or more on domestic flights without allowing passengers to deplane.
An investigation conducted by the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) found that:
- Between 2018-2021, American Airlines allowed 43 domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for lengthy periods without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane.
- None of the exceptions to the tarmac delay rule, including the safety and security exceptions, applied to those flights.
- On one of the 43 flights, passengers were not provided with food and water as required.
- Most of the delays occurred at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).
- A total of 5,821 passengers were affected by the delays.
The $4.1 million fine is the largest civil penalty that the DOT has ever assessed for violating the tarmac delay rule. Out of the $4.1 million fine, $2.05 million will be credited to the airline as compensation to be given to passengers on the affected flights.
“This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
He added: “Whether the issue is extreme tarmac delays or problems getting refunds, DOT will continue to protect consumers and hold airlines accountable.”
A report by Reuters said that American Airlines told the DOT that these delays were the result of exceptional weather events, and that the flights represented less than 0.001% of the approximately 7.7 million flights it operated during the period of 2018 to 2021.
“We have since apologized to the impacted customers and regret any inconvenience caused,” the airline said, adding that it had committed to “substantial time and resources to improve its performance on tarmac delays.”
The DOT said that the issuing of fines to American Airlines is just one part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address and expand rights and protections for air travelers.