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DOT Fines Delta Air Lines and American Airlines for Violating Tarmac Delay Rule

Thursday, February 28, 2019

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined American Airlines $1 million and Delta Air Lines $750,000 for violating federal statutes and the Department’s rule prohibiting long tarmac delays. 

DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office investigation revealed that ten domestic and three international flights operated by American at various airports throughout the United States violated the Department’s tarmac delay rule between December 2015 and January 2017.  The Enforcement Office also found that eleven flights operated by Delta violated the Department’s tarmac delay rule between January 2017 and February 2018.  Penalties for violations of the tarmac delay rule vary based on the facts and circumstances in the case, including, but not limited to, the consumer harm, the number of violations, and the violator’s compliance disposition and enforcement history.  More information about the specific lengthy tarmac delays can be found in the consent orders, available at, docket number DOT-OST-2019-0001.  

Under DOT rules, airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours at U.S. airports and their international flights to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours 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.  

Of the $1 million assessed to American, $450,000 will be credited to the airline for compensation provided to passengers on the affected flights.  Of the $750,000 assessed to Delta, $450,000 will be credited to the airline for compensation provided to passengers who experienced lengthy tarmac delays, and for Delta’s costs of establishing a backup data center and an automated aircraft-parking guidance and jet-bridge positioning system. 

DOT’s airline consumer website makes it easy for travelers to understand their rights.  The page on tarmac delays can be found here.  Consumers may file a complaint with the Department here.