DOT FINES TWO PASSENGER CARRIERS FOR TARMAC DELAY VIOLATIONS

(The following is a reformatted version of a press release
issued by The U.S. Department of Transportation and received via
e-mail. The release was confirmed by the sender.) 
January 2, 2013 
DOT Issues Two Fines Against Passenger Carriers for Tarmac Delay
Violations 
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation closed 2012
with fines against two airlines for violating federal rules that
limit how long an aircraft with passengers aboard may be delayed
on the tarmac. DOT fined Copa Airlines of Panama $150,000 and
Virgin America Airlines $55,000 and ordered the carriers to
cease and desist from further violations. 
The Copa and Virgin America orders were the final enforcement
actions taken last year by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement
Office. During 2012, the Department issued 49 consent orders for
consumer rule violations and assessed $3,610,000 in fines,
exceeding the previous record of 47 orders and $3,264,000 in
fines issued in 2011. 
“This Administration believes that consumers have the right to
be treated fairly when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood. “Our tarmac rules are meant to prevent
passengers from being trapped in aircraft on the ground for
hours on end, and we will continue to work with airlines and
airports to make sure that air travelers are treated with the
respect they deserve before, during and after their flights.” 
Airlines may not allow tarmac delays longer than three hours on
domestic flights and four hours on international flights at U.S.
airports without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the
plane. Exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for
safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.   In
addition, if a flight is delayed at the gate and passengers are
able to leave the plane, the carrier must announce the
opportunity to deplane 30 minutes after the scheduled departure
time and every 30 minutes afterward. 
The Department found that Copa left passengers stranded aboard
an aircraft at New York’s JFK Airport for five hours and 34
minutes on June 22, 2012 on a flight bound for Panama.
Passengers were not offered food until more than four hours into
the delay, although DOT rules call for airlines to provide food
and drinking water no later than two hours after leaving the
gate. Copa also failed to report the tarmac delay to the
Department as required, and DOT found out about the delay only
after two consumers filed complaints with the Department. In
addition, Copa’s contingency plan for tarmac delays, posted on
its website, failed to include a number of assurances required
by DOT rules, including that it would notify passengers during a
delay at the gate if they may leave the aircraft, maintain
sufficient resources to implement its contingency plan, and
coordinate its plan with airport authorities and other U.S.
government agencies at airports the carrier serves. 
Virgin America was fined for failing to notify passengers in an
aircraft delayed at the gate for two hours and 16 minutes at
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on July 18, 2012, that they could leave
the aircraft prior to its departure for San Francisco. 
The enforcement orders are available on the Internet at
www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002. 
Passengers may file complaints or comments about airline service
not related to safety or security issues through DOT’s Aviation
Consumer Protection Division (ACPD). 
### 
Contact: Bill Mosley
Tel: (202) 366-4570 
(sgp) NY 
#<278855.14078.3.3.0.0.76>#
 
 
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