DOT penalizes United for tarmac delays

The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined United $1.9 million for violations of the federal tarmac-delay rule. 

The violations occurred between December 2015 and February 2021 on 20 domestic flights and five international flights at airports around the U.S. 

Under the tarmac-delay rule, airlines cannot keep domestic flights on the tarmac for more than three hours and cannot keep international flights on the tarmac for more than four hours without providing an opportunity for passengers to deplane. 

Of the 25 flights included in the DOT order, 20 involved flights that had been diverted from their scheduled airport due to weather. 

Out of the $1.9 million, United will pay half in cash. The DOT has credited United the other $950,000 for compensation United paid to passengers on delayed flights and for money it spent to develop a diversion-management tool. 

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United agreed to pay the penalty but admitted no wrongdoing, the DOT order says.

In an email, United spokesman Charles Hobart noted that the order covers 25 out of nearly 8 million flights flown by United or United Express  during the timeframe of the violations.

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He also said that United has invested in ground-service equipment to ensure that many strategically located airports have the capability to handle a variety of aircraft beyond the type of planes that are scheduled for the airport. 

“The safety of our customers and employees is always our first priority — particularly during severe weather,” Hobart said. “We remain committed to fully meeting all DOT rules and will continue identifying and implementing improvements in how we manage difficult operating conditions while maintaining the safety of our customers and employees.”

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