(Adds American Airlines reaction, background)
WASHINGTON Dec 14 The U.S. Transportation
Department on Wednesday fined American Airlines a
record-matching $1.6 million for violating a rule that prohibits
long tarmac delays.
The department said it found American had allowed a number
of domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three
hours without allowing passengers an opportunity to get off the
plane. The fine matched the amount that was assessed against
Southwest Airlines in 2015 for violating the same rule.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the company was
pleased to have resolved the issue. "It's worth noting that a
large portion of the settlement is related to a winter weather
event that occurred nearly four years ago in Charlotte," he
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a
statement the "tarmac rule is meant to prevent passengers from
being trapped in aircraft on the ground for hours on end."
Under government rules, U.S. airlines operating aircraft
with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing
domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three
hours without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the
plane with some limited exceptions.
The rules also require airlines to provide adequate food and
water, ensure that lavatories are working and, if necessary,
provide medical attention to passengers during long tarmac
The long tarmac delays that led to American's $1.6 million
fine include some on flights operated by both American Airlines'
predecessor, US Airways, and its regional partners during a
Of the $1.6 million fine, the government will deduct
$602,000 for what American provided in compensation to
passengers on delayed flights, and another $303,000 for what
American paid towards its costs of maintaining a surface
management and surveillance system at Charlotte and Dallas-Fort
Worth to monitor the location of each aircraft, the department
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Timothy Ahmann in Washington
and Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by G Crosse and Sandra