USDOT issues fine to United Airlines for tarmac delay violations
The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued one of the largest fines, $1.9 million, to United Airlines for the violation of the Department’s rule outlawing long tarmac delays.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has fined United Airlines $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 ever issued by USDOT for tarmac delay violations.
An extensive investigation by USDOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) found that, between December 2015 and February 2021, United Airlines allowed 20 domestic flights and five international flights, at various airports throughout the U.S., to remain on the tarmac for a lengthy period of time, without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane, in violation of USDOT’s tarmac delay rule. The delays affected a total of 3,218 passengers.
Under the USDOT 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 three hours at U.S. airports, and for their international flights to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours at U.S. airports, without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane.
The rule prohibiting long tarmac delays for domestic flights took effect in 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.