Consumer Watchdog

American Airlines fined $4.1 million, largest penalty ever for tarmac violations

Company allowed 43 flights to stay on the tarmac for three-plus hours between 2018 and 2021.

Photo by Maria Tyutina | Used by permission

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined American Airlines $4.1 million for breaking federal tarmac rules, which prohibit delays on the tarmac for three hours or more without allowing travelers to get off the plane. The rules apply to domestic flights, unless there is some security or safety issue. Neither of those applied in the 43 cases DOT reviewed by DOT from 2018 through 2021.

A total of  5,821 passengers were affected by American’s tarmac delays. Most of the incidents were at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. With one of the flights, travelers were not offered food and water, as is required. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said DOT is working to protect consumers from issues ranging from tarmac delays to flight disruptions to difficulty getting refunds for canceled flights, as is required.

Of the $4.1 million, which is a record civil penalty in connection with the DOT’s tarmac rule, $2.05 million will be given to passengers on the affected flights.

It’s important for airline passengers to know their rights, including on tarmac delays

Passengers who have a problem with any aspect of airline travel can file a complaint with the DOT.

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