The Department of Transportation (DOT) imposed a $4.1 million fine on American Airlines Monday for not allowing passengers to de-board the plane during dozens of prolonged ground delays, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The department’s investigation shows the airline held 43 flights on the tarmac for more than three hours between 2018 and 2021, The AP reported. A total of 5,821 passengers were reportedly not given the opportunity to disembark during the delays.
The airline’s actions were found to be in violation of regulations concerning extended ground delays that were put into effect about ten years ago, The AP noted. Department of Transportation officials reportedly noted none of the 43 instances could be justified by safety concerns.
The fine marks the largest penalty of its kind against an airline, per The AP. American Airlines is reportedly required to pay half of the fine within the next 30 days as part of a settlement. The other half was credited due to compensation the airline provided to affected passengers.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the department’s commitment to hold airlines accountable.
“This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” Buttigieg said.
The majority of these delays occurred at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to The AP. The airline cited difficulties in managing gate availability during thunderstorms as a contributing factor. (RELATED: American Airlines Employee Dies In ‘Incident’ On Tarmac At Austin Airport, Authorities Say)
American Airlines also reportedly argued these incidents were a very small fraction of its 7.7 million flights between 2018 and 2021. But the airline acknowledged the need to address the issue and prevent such delays in the future, The AP noted.