American Airlines Fined $2 Million for Repeated Tarmac Delays

American Airlines Fined $2 Million for Repeated Tarmac Delays

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a $2.05 million fine to American Airlines for repeated tarmac delays of three hours or more on domestic flights without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane.

DOT’s investigation found that American kept dozens of flights stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time without letting passengers off. This is the largest fine ever issued by DOT for tarmac delay violations and cease and desist from violating the law.

An extensive investigation by the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) found that between 2018 and 2021, American allowed 43 domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for lengthy periods without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane in violation of the Department’s tarmac delay rule. DOT found that none of the exceptions to the tarmac delay rule, including the safety and security exceptions, applied to those flights. In addition, on one of the 43 flights, passengers were not provided with food and water as required. Most of the delays occurred at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. These delays affected a total of  5,821 passengers. 

The total assessed fine was actually $4.1 million, but $2.05 million will be credited to the airline for compensation provided to passengers on the affected flights. DOT encourages airlines to compensate passengers by providing these credits so that a portion of the civil penalties that would have been paid to the Federal Treasury is instead used to compensate the affected passengers.  

DOT recently expanded the dashboard at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. DOT’s aviation consumer protection website makes it easy for travelers to understand their rights. The page on tarmac delays can be found here and consumers may file an airline complaint with the Department here.

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