American Eagle Airlines has earned the dubious distinction of being the first carrier fined by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation for violating the “three-hour rule” and has been ordered to pay a $900,000 penalty.
American Eagle Fined $900K for 15 Delayed Flights
American Eagle, which is a regional affiliate of American Airlines, violated the rule back on May 29 of this year, when what has been described as a “slow-moving weather system” delayed flights at O’Hare in Chicago. The DOT said American Eagle had 15 flights idling on the Chicago airport tarmac for more than three hours per plane, affecting more than 600 passengers.
The three-hour rule, which went into effect in April 2010, states that airlines cannot keep passengers in planes awaiting take-off for more than three hours. Instead, an aircraft is required to return to the gate and allow their passengers back into the airport.
Passengers Payouts from DOT Fine
According to the DOT, American Eagles passengers on those delayed flights reap some benefit from the $900,000 fine:
“A total of $650,000 must be paid within 30 days, and up to $250,000 can be credited for refunds, vouchers, and frequent flyer mile awards provided to the passengers on the 15 flights on May 29, as well as to passengers on future flights that experience lengthy tarmac delays of less than three hours.” -Dept. of Transportation news release
Recent ‘Trapped on the Tarmac’ Horror Stories
More fines may be on the way. Just last month, during a freak October snowstorm, some JetBlue planes sat on the tarmac at Hartford’s Bradley International for more than seven hours. One passenger described the harrowing ordeal this way: “The toilets were backed up. When you flushed, nothing would happen.” A total of 700 passengers were affected. Eventually, they got off the planes and spent the night on cots and chairs in an airport terminal.