The U.S. Department of Transportation issued its first violation of the three-hour tarmac rule and fined American Eagle Airlines $900,000, according to a DOT statement.
The airline, American Airlines' regional carrier, was singled out for keeping passengers on airplanes on 15 flights arriving at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on May 29. DOT says 608 passengers were affected by delays of up to 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The tarmac delay rule, as it is nicknamed, which went into effect April 2010, says airlines with 30 or more passengers on domestic flights can't remain on the runway longer than three hours without facing fines of up to $27,000 per passenger. The rule was later extended to international flights delayed on the tarmac longer than four hours.
American Eagle did have a procedure to bring passengers back to the gate, the DOT says, but it took action too late. The $900,000 fine represents a settlement between DOT and the airline.
"Due to a single slow-moving weather system and the resulting congestion that developed at the airport, a total of 15 flights were delayed past the DOT’s three-hour limit," American Eagle said in a statement. Thunderstorms in the area delayed and canceled hundreds of flights at O'Hare on May 29.
Three JetBlue flights were stranded for more than seven hours at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Ct., during a freak snowstorm Oct. 29. The DOT is investigating to see whether the airline violated the tarmac delay rule.