In the first such fine of an international carrier, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a $150,000 fine against Pakistan International Airlines for stranding passengers at an airport near Washington for more than four hours.
Under federal rules, domestic airlines are prohibited from keeping passengers stranded on a grounded flight for more than three hours without allowing them to return to the terminal. On international flights, the limit is four hours. Airlines that violate the rules can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.
The Transportation Department said Wednesday that an Oct. 29, 2011, flight by the state-owned airline of Pakistan was diverted to Dulles International Airport in Virginia because of equipment problems at its final destination in New York.
But the flight remained on the tarmac at Dulles for four hours and 47 minutes because the crew didn't want to unload passengers through outdoor staircases in stormy weather, the agency said.
Although the federal agency has issued a few fines against domestic carriers for violating the rule, this is the first such fine issued against an international carrier.