DOT Fines COPA Airlines $150,000 and Virgin America $55,000 USD
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) means business when it comes to enforcing fines for Tarmac Delays. The DOT just fined COPA Airlines of Panama $150,000 and Virgin America Airlines $55,000 for tarmac delays which took place in 2012.
Strict rules are in place which regulate tarmac delays to make sure passengers are not trapped on aircraft for excessive periods of time. US DOT rules prohibit airlines from having delayed flights on the tarmac for more than three hours for a US domestic operation and four hours for an international flight. Passengers must not only be provided the opportunity to de-plane under DOT rules, but the airline must make food and drinking water available during an extended tarmac delay.
COPA Airlines Fined over Delay on New York JFK to Panama City Flight
On June 22, 2012, COPA Airlines left passengers stranded on an aircraft at New York Kennedy (JFK) Airport for a total of five hours and 34 minutes according to a US DOT complaint. The DOT alleges the delay exceeded four hours before passengers were offered food or drink, whereas DOT regulations require food and drinking water be provided two hours into a tarmac delay.
Additionally, the DOT also alleges COPA did not include assurances required by DOT rules as part of their contingency plans on their website.
On a final, and perhaps one of the most important notes, the US DOT further alleges COPA did not report the lengthy tarmac delay to the DOT as required. The DOT only found out about the delay as a result of two consumer complaints.
As a consumer, the next time you encounter a tarmac delay or another problem with an airline, send your complaint to the airline and file the complaint with the US Department of Transportation – Consumer Complaints.
The above link provides contact information for complaints plus access to a web form to file a complaint against an airline.
Virgin America Fined over Delay at Chicago O’Hare
Virgin America was fined by the DOT for allegedly failing to notify passengers on an aircraft delayed at the gate that they could disembark during the delay. The San Francisco bound flight was delayed for two hours and 16 minutes.
While the delay did not exceed the three hour mark, the aircraft was at the gate and passengers should have been provided the opportunity to leave the aircraft.
After a series of events which left passengers stranded on aircraft for excess periods of time, the DOT passed strict rules to prevent such delays from happening again. The US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, commented, “Our tarmac rules are meant to prevent passengers from being trapped in aircraft on the ground for hours on end, and we will continue to work with airlines and airports to make sure that air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve before, during and after their flights.”
During 2012, the DOT issued 49 consent orders for consumer rule violations and assessed $3,610,000 in fines. This was an increase over 2011 when 47 orders were issued with a total of $3,264,000 in fines.