The federal government fines American Airlines $4.1million for dozens instances where passengers were not allowed to leave planes during lengthy ground delays.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it was the largest fine ever imposed on an airline, since rules governing long delays at ground level were implemented about a decade earlier.
According to the department, its investigation found that between 2018 and 2021 American held 43 domestic flights at the airport for at least 3 hours without allowing passengers to disembark. The rules are flexible in some cases, such as for safety or security, but according to the department, none of these factors were present in the identified flights.
“This is just the latest in our ongoing efforts to enforce rights for airline passengers,” said Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He vowed that airlines would be held accountable under consumer protection laws.
The consent order states that American aims to avoid long ground delays. However, the 43 flights represent a fraction of 1% out of the 7.7 million flights American and American Eagle flew between 2018 and 2020. The airline stated that it had provided “substantial” compensation to passengers who were delayed, and has now devoted more attention to preventing delays.
The majority of delays were at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport where American is dominant. Others occurred in San Antonio or Houston when flights diverted to DFW were there. The delays were mostly caused by thunderstorms and American’s inability to control its airport gates.
The airline was particularly upset by the delays at Reagan Washington National Airport in January 2019 during a stormy winter, but accepted the outline of the settlement in the consent order.