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How would you like to spend 3 hours in a plane on the ground, waiting for either takeoff or your gate after landing? Yeah, I wouldn’t either. Yet this is the length of time American Airlines kept aircraft waiting in over two dozen instances between 2013 and 2015.
American was fined the whopping sum of $1.6 million for a total of 27 incidents in which tarmac delays exceeded the established DOT rule of three hours (which still seems really long). The only exceptions to this rule are reasons of safety and security. The sum of the fine matches the amount one levied against Southwest Airlines in 2015.
February 16, 2013 saw the worst of the incidents, which involved 20 excessively-delayed flights at Charlotte Airport. A winter snowstorm wreaked havoc on AA’s logistics, causing massive delays. A total of 860 passengers were left sitting on planes for over 3 hours.
Had I been one of the unfortunate people trapped on a plane for three hours on the ground, I would be ticked. I understand that delays happen and that air travel can be unpredictable, but sitting on the tarmac for over three hours is unreal! Reimbursement for the cost of the flights is the minimum compensation I would expect from American (in reality, they would probably tell me to go pound sand).
Outcome of the DOT investigation
The DOT investigation concluded that mismanagement of resources and poor decisions during foul weather caused the excessive delays. Mismanagement also caused recent problems for Frontier (SEE: The huge problem flying Frontier). Contrasting three hour delays with large numbers of canceled flights, I’m not sure which is worse.
The total $1.6 million won’t actually be paid to the DOT. American is receiving a credit of $600,000 for passenger compensation and another $300,000 for equipment to help them prevent incidents like these from happening again. But they’ll certainly be writing the DOT a check for the rest.
American was ordered to “cease and desist” from future violations. Because American is not exactly paying the entirety of the fine and been slapped once by the DOT for these violations, I hope they will be more cognizant of passenger well-being in the future.
Header image courtesy of Simon Sees, via Wikimedia Commons under CC2.0 license.