The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined United Airlines $1.1 million for violating the agency’s rules limited tarmac delays, according to a DOT media release.
The fine is the highest amount levied by DOT for tarmac delays since the rule took effect in April 2010, says the agency.
“We are committed to complying with the tarmac delay regulations and we continue to improve our procedures while maintaining the safety of our customers and coworkers,” says United in a statement to Flightglobal.
DOT says United will pay $475,000 to the US government; the remainder of the $1.1 million will go to affected passengers and corrective actions to ensure compliance with tarmac delay limits.
The fine is for 13 lengthy delays at Chicago O’Hare International airport on 13 July, 2012, when United and its United Express partners exceeded the three-hour delay limit by between two minutes and 77 minutes, according to DOT.
In addition, lavatories on two United Express flights were inoperable during part of the delays, says DOT.
The agency says severe thunderstorms and lightning caused ramp closures and disrupted aircraft movement that day.
It adds that United had a contingency plan to deal with tarmac delays but did not implement the plan. In addition, the plan was “inadequate to cover foreseeable weather emergencies in which there were more planes on the ground than space at gates,” according to DOT.
In addition, DOT says United did not contact airport personnel or other airlines for help.
“It is unacceptable for passengers to be stranded in planes on the tarmac for hours on end,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in the media release. “We will continue to require airlines to adopt workable plans to protect passengers from lengthy tarmac delays and carry out these plans when necessary.”