DOT Fines United Over New Delays Rule

The Department of Transportation has issued its first fine under new rules designed to prevent long flight delays. Except the $12,000 penalty against United Airlines wasn't exactly for a delay.

Federal officials fined United for over-reporting its tarmac delays in May. In other words, United was penalized for creating extra paperwork.

The new rules, which took effect April 29, require carriers to provide passengers with food and water and to let them get off the plane if a tarmac delay is for more than three hours. Airlines that don't comply face stiff fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.

In May, due to thunderstorms in Denver, United had four flights diverted to Colorado Springs, all on the same day, May 26. The flights were delayed there from 3 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 41 minutes, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Passengers were, as required, provided with snacks and water and given the opportunity to exit the plane before the three-hour limit kicked in.

Still, the way United read the new rules the carrier thought it was required to report the incidents, a spokesman tells the newspaper.

The fed says the carrier overdid it, and that United should have stopped the clock on reporting at the point where passengers were allowed to disembark. By "misreporting," the DOT says United wasted valuable department resources.

In response, United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson says, "It is unfortunate that our effort to be fully transparent resulted in our inadvertently reporting four flight delays where we complied with regulations and with our own procedures to ensure the comfort and safety of our customers and employees."

United reached an agreement with DOT to pay half the fine in exchange for not making a similar clerical error in the future.

Photo, jimmyharris, flickr
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