NAPA, Calif., Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. government fined regional carrier American Eagle $900,000 Monday in the first enforcement of a regulation aimed at curbing airport ground delays that strand passengers on planes for hours, often without food, water or working toilets.
The fines against American Eagle, a unit of American Airlines parent AMR Corp, for extended tarmac delays affecting more than 600 people on 15 flights last May in Chicago is also one of the largest consumer protection fines ever levied by the U.S. Transportation Department. As part of a settlement with regulators, American Eagle was mandated by DOT to refrain from future violations of the rule limiting ground delays to three hours, and was instructed to use more than a quarter of the fine to compensate passengers.
"We fought for the tarmac rule to protect passengers and we are grateful to secretary Ray LaHood and the DOT for meaningful enforcement of the rule," said Kate Hanni, Director of FlyersRights.org, "and the DOT did the right thing mandating that the passengers receive 25% of the fines as compensation for their losses."
Due to the massive meltdown and tarmac delays at Bradley International Airport in CT, Transportation regulators came under pressure last week from congressional lawmakers to begin enforcing the rule, which was imposed last year and grew out of a movement on Capitol Hill to improve consumer protections for airline passengers.
Extended tarmac delays have been cut sharply — from 1,200 in 2008 to 20 in 2010. Airlines are appropriately pre-cancelling flights to avoid sticking passengers in jets and sitting for protracted periods on the tarmac. FlyersRights.org has not received one complaint from a passenger stating their flight was cancelled due to the tarmac delay rule, contrary to what the airlines would like the public to believe.
Although, JetBlue Airways last week met with Transportation Department officials to explain why five flights diverted to Hartford's Bradley airport during last month's freak Northeast snowstorm experienced ground delays exceeding three hours. According to FRO's hotline 5 of them sat for more than 7 hours, flight #1088 for 10 hours, and that's simply unacceptable.
About Flyers Rights.org
FlyersRights.org is the largest non-profit consumer organization in the United States representing airline passengers with 50,000 members and a toll free hotline 1-877-359-3776.