United Could Face Hefty Fines Over Tarmac Delays

May was the first full month that the Dept. of Transportation’s new regulations regarding planes idling on the tarmac were in effect. And for United Airlines, it could end up being a very expensive few weeks. Of the 5 flights that violated the new rules, 4 were operated by United.

The regulation fines airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for each plane that idles on the tarmac for three hours or more. So depending on the DOT’s final rulings and the number of passengers on each of the four delayed flights, United could be looking at upward of several million dollars in penalties.

The DOT says the investigation into these violations could take weeks. There are exceptions to the rule that allow planes to go beyond the 3-hour deadline for reasons of safety and security or if an air traffic controller orders them to not return to the gate.

All four delayed United flights occurred on the same day at the same airport. On May 26, foul weather had temporarily shut down Denver International Airport, forcing the four flights to be diverted to Colorado Springs, where the bad weather caught up with them and caused more delays.

According to the DOT, the delays ranged from 3 hours and 10 minutes to 4 hours and 41 minutes.

Explains a United rep:

All customers were offered the opportunity to exit the plane and were provided snacks and water as we waited for the weather to improve and air traffic control clearance to safely continue on to Denver

The fifth delayed flight in May was operated by Delta. According to a rep for that airline, the flight crew had asked to return to the terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport following a delay of two hours, but were told they could not by air traffic controllers. Ultimately, the flight took to the air just two minutes after the 3-hour mark.

Do you think the United delays merit the steep fine?

United may face fines over new tarmac delay rules [Chicago Tribune]