Using his new power for the first time, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has slapped a regional affiliate of American Airlines with a fine of almost $1 million for keeping hundreds of passengers trapped in planes on the tarmac for hours, the Associated Press reports.
“We put the tarmac rule in place to protect passengers, and we take any violation very seriously,” LaHood said in a statement, the AP said. “We will work to ensure that airlines and airports coordinate their resources and plans to avoid keeping passengers delayed on the tarmac.”
On 15 flights arriving at O’Hare International Airport on May 29, American Eagle Airlines had tarmac delays lasting more than three hours that kept 608 passengers stuck on board planes, the AP said. American Airlines must pay $650,000 of the $900,000 fine within one month, while the rest of the fine can be paid off through refunds, vouchers and frequent flyer miles awarded to passengers.
The fine is the largest consumer-related penalty, other than civil rights violations, ever levied on a carrier, the AP said.
The “three-hour tarmac rule” - adopted in April 2910 - requires that air carriers at medium and large U.S. airports to develop a contingency plan to ensure that a plan does not sit on the tarmac for more than three hours. It mandates that air carriers provide “adequate food and potable water” no more than two hours after the aircraft leaves the gate or touches down.
According to a department briefing on the rule, failure to comply can result in up to a $27,500 fine per passenger.
“We take our responsibility to comply with all of the department’s requirements very seriously and have already put in place processes to avoid such an occurrence in the future,” American Eagle’s president and CEO Dan Garton said in a statement, the AP said.
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