The Associated Press is taking the Transportation Department to task over data that seems to contradict its own findings. American Airlines operated two flights that have been late over 70% of the time for 3 consecutive quarters, making AA eligible for a total of $50,000 in fines, says the AP, but the DOT has failed to act.
American was not fined because the government considered both flights to have changed during the course of the year under criteria that required scheduled departures be within 15 minutes of each other in all three quarters, said Sam Podbersky, the Transportation Department’s assistant general counsel for aviation enforcement.
The departure time of the Newark-Chicago flight was moved up by 50 minutes in the second and third quarters compared with the first, and the Miami-New York flight’s scheduled departure was pushed back by 20 minutes. Because of that, neither flight was even among the 25 the government considered chronically late in the first half of the year.
“American Airlines did not have any flights that were chronically delayed for the first three quarters of 2007, and neither has the DOT Enforcement Office informed us that we did,” company spokesman Tim Wagner wrote in an e-mail Thursday.
The program was designed to encourage airlines to move flights to less crowded time slots, and the DOT says that’s what American was trying to do.
“Adjusting operations to look for a less crowded time to take off is exactly what we want the airlines to do,” said Transportation Department spokesman Brian Turmail. “This is the beginning of the process, not the end.”