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American Eagle Airlines Fined for Ridiculous Delays

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 14, 2011 5:20PM

Image Credit: Lucy Rendler-Kaplan

The Transportation Department levied a $900,000 fine against American Eagle Airlines today. The fines stemmed from a series of flight delays at O'Hare International Airport in May that kept passengers cooped up in planes for hours as storms raced through the Chicago area.

15 American Eagle flights from O'Hare experienced delays of three hours or more on May 29, affecting 608 passengers. In fact, O'Hare recorded 15 of the 16 flight delays under investigation on that single day in May. These are the first fines to be meted out since an April 2010 rule change limiting tarmac delays to three hours. If a delay runs longer than three hours the airline must taxi back to a gate, provide passengers who wish to leave a plane with a safe means of getting off, or be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement:

"We put the tarmac rule in place to protect passengers, and we take any violation very seriously. We will work to ensure that airlines and airports coordinate their resources and plans to avoid keeping passengers delayed on the tarmac."

American Eagle blamed the delays on a slow moving storm system - the only kind of storm that rolls through airports, apparently. American Eagle President and CEO Dan Garton said in a statement his company takes the rule seriously, has apologized for the May delays and provided either travel vouchers or frequent flyer program mileage credit to passengers.

American Eagle must pony up $650,000 of the fine within 30 days, but may have up to $250,000 of that amount credited by providing passengers on the flights with refunds, vouchers, and frequent flyer mile awards. the Transportation Department opened another investigation into American Airlines and JetBlue Airlines last month over tarmac delays at Bradley International Airport, near Hartford, CT. Several flights were diverted there from New York after a freak snowstorm hit the northeast, resulting in delays of seven hours or more with passengers sleeping on cots at the airport.