American Airlines is facing a $4.1 million fine imposed by the federal government for keeping passengers on planes during long ground delays without the opportunity to disembark.
An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed that, between 2018 and 2021, American Airlines held 43 domestic flights on the ground for at least three hours, affecting a total of 5,821 passengers, AP news reported.
“American Airlines violated the DOT’s rule prohibiting airlines from keeping passengers on planes for tarmac delays lasting three hours or more,” the statement said.
The violations were in breach of the DOT’s rule which prohibits airlines from keeping passengers on planes for tarmac delays exceeding three hours.
While there are circumstances where airlines can deviate from the regulations, such as for safety and security purposes, the department clarified that none of these exceptions were applicable to the flights under investigation.
The department further stated that, “This fine is the most substantial penalty imposed on an airline since the implementation of rules addressing long ground delays approximately ten years ago.”
According to CBS news reports, passengers are owed more than $2.5 billion in refunds related to the delays.
Pete Buttigieg, Transportation secretary said to AP news, “This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” he vowed to hold airlines accountable under consumer-protection laws.
American Airlines, in response to the fine, has expressed its intention to prevent prolonged ground delays, highlighting that the 43 flights in question accounted for less than 1% of the approximately 7.7 million flights operated by American and American Eagle between 2018 and 2021.
The airline further acknowledged providing significant compensation to affected passengers and has since increased its focus on improving management practices to avoid delays.