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Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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First Airline Fined for Extended Runway Delay

Many travelers believe that regardless of how inexpensive cheap travel options may be, whether cheap airplane tickets or cheap vacation packages, nothing offsets having to sit on a runway not knowing when your plane will take off for over three hours.

On Monday, November 14th, the Department of Transportation (DOT) fined American Eagle, an American Airlines affiliate, $900,000 for leaving over 600 passengers on 15 planes sitting on runways at O’Hare Airport for over three hours on May 29th.

Bad weather sporadically prevented flights from departing that day.  American Eagle continued to send planes from other airports into O’Hare even though the airline knew that there were no available gates for the planes.  

As a result of the new three hour limit on runway delays instituted by DOT 20 months ago, airlines have increased flight cancellations to avoid the possibility of paying fees of up to $27,500 per passenger for leaving passengers stranded on planes for an extended amount of time.

Until Monday DOT had not fined any airlines responsible for breaking this rule.  Since the rule was imposed, extended flight cancellations have dropped over 97 percent, but there have still been over 24 cases where passengers had to endure extended runway delays.

The DOT had not previously issued any runway fines because it viewed previous extended runway delays as outside of the airlines’ control.  Reasons for such delays include a shortage of Customs officials available for international flights, an airport not having enough buses to transport passengers safely to the terminal, or other emergency shortages.

The American Eagle fine is the largest penalty charged to an airlines in a consumer protection case not pertaining to civil rights violations.  Airlines have previously paid more costly fines for violating federal safety regulations.

Experts believe DOT decided to fine American Eagle because its actions were viewed as particularly egregious and wanted to warn other airlines to avoid similar practices prior to holiday travel.

DOT directed that up to $250,000 of the fine be paid directly to the passengers impacted by the delays via refunds, vouchersFind Article, and frequent flier awards.

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