DOT Serious with Tarmac Delay Rule – Fines United $130,000
February 13, 2013 – (Louisville, KY): The US Department of Transportation (DOT) fined United Airlines $130,000 for violations of the tarmac delay rule. According to the DOT, the federal rules were violated last May when passengers on a delayed United Airlines aircraft at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) were not given the opportunity to deplane. The aircraft returned to the gate after a tarmac delay and passengers sat on the aircraft with the boarding door open. In addition to the fine, United Airlines was ordered to cease and desist from further violations.
New consumer protection rules which went into effect August 2011 provide strict penalties for airlines which do not follow protocol during a delay. If the plane is delayed at the gate, the DOT requires announcements be made allowing passengers to deplane. The initial announcement must be made 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and announcements must be made every 30 minutes afterwards.
The flight in particular was United 881, a daily flight between Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Tokyo-Narita (NRT), on May 7, 2012.
As soon as the Boeing 777-200 aircraft pushed from the gate, a series of delays occurred. The plane pushed-back at 12:38pm only to be returned to the gate almost two hours later at 2:25pm as the result of a maintenance problem. Upon returning to the gate with doors opened, United failed to make a required announcement notifying passengers of the opportunity to deplane per DOT allegations.
The aircraft doors closed again at 3:10pm to push-back again for departure. However, a second mechanical problem was located and the plane returned to a gate at 5:22pm. At this point the flight was cancelled and all passengers deplaned.
It’s our understanding United did not inform the DOT of this incident, but instead three consumers on-board filed complaints with theDepartment’s Aviation Consumer Protection Divisionabout the prolonged delay.
Speaking about this particular action, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “It’s very simple – if a plane is delayed at the gate and it’s possible for passengers to leave, the airline must tell them of their rights.” LaHood further explained, “We adopted our tarmac delay rules to protect passengers’ rights and will continue to take enforcement action when necessary.”
Should you find yourself caught in a tarmac delay or if you have a gripe with your airline, you may file a complaint with the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division via the link provided above.