United Airlines has become one of the first carriers to be fined by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) under new rules designed to prevent long ground delays.
United did not actually breach the rules, but still copped the $12,000 fine, USA Today reported.
Under the DOT rules, which have been effective since April this year, airlines can be fined up to USD$27,500 per passenger for each flight delayed on the ground for more than three hours.
The fine can be avoided if passengers are provided food, water and given the opportunity to return to the terminal prior to the three hour mark, the report said.
United is facing the fines as a result of incidents in May when the airline was forced to divert four Denver-bound flights to Colorado Springs following thunderstorms at Denver.
United’s planed remained grounded in Colorado Springs whilst awaiting clearance from air traffic control.
United said it gave customers snacks and water, and offered all a chance to deplane prior to the three-hour mark. The carrier, saying it wanted to comply with the letter of the new law, then reported the delays to the DOT.
Despite these measures, the DOT found that "United should have stopped the clock on the delays at the point where passengers were allowed to disembark …The carrier was penalized for reporting inaccurate data to the Transportation Department, which published the totals in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report."
"United’s misreporting of this data wasted valuable Department resources," the DOT said in a 21 September consent order, quoted in the Chicago Tribune.
Delta affiliate "Pinnacle Airlines also was fined $5,000 earlier this month for unnecessarily reporting a tarmac delay", the USA Today report said.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.C