United Airlines Fined $1.9M by US Transportation Dept. for Breaking Rules on Long Tarmac Delays

© REUTERS / Louis Nastro/File Photo A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, U.S. on February 7, 2015
 A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, U.S. on February 7, 2015 - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.09.2021
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The US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Friday that United Airlines would be forced to pay a $1.9 million fine for violating its rules against long tarmac delays and ordered to "cease and desist from future similar violations."
According to a DOT news release, the fine is the largest it has ever issued for this kind of violation, which affected 3,218 passengers on 20 domestic flights and five international between December 2015 and February 2021. The delays weren't confined to a few problematic airports, either, but occurred across the United States.
"Under the DOT tarmac delay rule, airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours at US airports and their international flights to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane," the release explains, noting some exceptions exist for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.
"The rule also requires airlines to provide adequate food and water, ensure that lavatories are working and, if necessary, provide medical attention to passengers during long tarmac delays," the release further notes.
The DOT did not elaborate on whether United failed to meet any of those requirements or if the fine was strictly issued on the basis of excessive tarmac time.
The airline told Reuters it remains "committed to fully meeting all DOT rules and will continue identifying and implementing improvements in how we manage difficult operating conditions."
United, the world's third-largest airline, was previously fined $2.75 million in 2016 for DOT violations that included long tarmac times, as well as giving inadequate help to disabled people, including not returning wheelchairs promptly or helping them move through its airport facilities. Other airlines have received smaller fines for violating the long tarmac wait rules, including a $1.6 million fine for Southwest Airlines in 2016 and another $1.6 million fine for American Airlines in the same year.
United was also fined $49 million by the US Department of Justice in February to resolve civil and criminal charges related to fraud in US Postal Service contracts related to transporting international mail.
According to the New York Times, nearly one-quarter of US passenger aircraft suffered delays between June and August, driven in large part by staffing shortages everywhere from gate attendants to pilots.
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