While there’s literally nothing pleasant about facing a long flight delay at the airport, at least you can walk around the terminal and pass the time over overpriced drinks at the nearest bar. Getting delayed on the tarmac, however, comes with no such consolations. It’s the worst. Some airlines are notorious for doing this to flyers, and now, they’re being forced to pay a pretty penny for it.
American Airlines has been fined $1 million for violating federal rules barring extensive tarmac delays, while Delta Air Lines has been fined $750,000, according to a report by Reuters. Airlines are, under most circumstances, forbidden from allowing domestic and international flights to sit on the tarmac for more than three and four hours, respectively, which is a lot of leeway if you ask us. In those situations, passengers must be given an opportunity to deplane, the report states.
The U.S. Transportation Department cut American some slack with its fine, crediting the airline $450,000 for compensating passengers. The organization cited 13 different tarmac delays since December 2015, blaming “gate mismanagement” for at least two of the delayed flights. Delta received the same credit for compensating customers and establishing a backup data center and automated aircraft-parking guidance and jet-bridge positioning system, the department told Reuters.
Delta was cited for about a dozen tarmac delays since 2017. The department found that passengers on seven flights at Atlanta were prevented from deplaning for hours on end, even though there was “no safety, security or Air Traffic Control reason for not doing so.” Although the Transportation Department came with the (proverbial) receipts, the airline refuted its claims, saying the “delays were the direct result of an extraordinary, unanticipated, and unpredictable system outage in the data center at Delta’s Atlanta hub.”
Delta claims it provided customers with substantial compensation, in the form of cash reimbursements, SkyMiles, and travel vouchers, for each delay. Both American and Delta agreed to pay the resulting fines. But really, what choice did they have? The airlines continue to maintain that they have gone above and beyond to avoid such instances, adding that all delays were caused by events beyond their control.
“Delta has spent million to invest in new technologies to increase efficiency of aircraft movement during irregular operations and additional deicing capacity at its Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hub,” the airline said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the delays they were fined for were the result of “exceptional weather events dating as far back as 2015.” The company disputed claims of gate mismanagement. The spokeswoman added that American “put procedures in place to help better accommodate our customers when inclement weather occurs.” The airline told the outlet it invested more than $5 million in things like vans, air stairs and lavatory trucks to be used during tarmac delays.
Hopefully, the fines lead airlines to think before leaving passengers stranded on the tarmac in the future or, at the very least, provide proper accommodations when these situations do arise.