Regional air carrier American Eagle has been fined $900,000 in one of the first moves enforcing new regulations aimed a curbing long tarmac delays.
The airline must pay $650,000 in 30 days. The remainder of the fine can be credited for refunds, vouchers, and frequent flyer mile awards for passengers who were on the 15 flights that sparked the fines.
Last April, the Department of Transportation created a new rule meant to ease the frustration of harried passengers everywhere: a cap on tarmac delays. Airlines could only have delays of 3 hours on domestic flights before incurring fines. International flights can only have 4 hours of delays.
For passengers stranded on airplanes, these delays can be more than just an annoyance. Some passengers have complained about being held as "virtual prisoners" on planes stalling on the tarmac even when an airport terminal is within viewing distance, according to the Washington Post.
In one incident, hundreds of JetBlue passengers were stranded on a New York tarmac for more than 10 hours.
This new rule can be good for passengers now that the holiday season is approaching. But it also comes with some drawbacks. There has been a marked decrease in the numbers flights that experience lengthy tarmac delays. But at the same time, it seems that many airlines are fearful of incurring fines and are more likely to cancel flights entirely, rather than risk a financial penalty.
For Americans that are about to embark on holiday travels, the new regulations may mean an improved experience. Now that American Eagle has been fined, airlines are probably well-aware that the Department of Transportation won't hesitate to enforce the new tarmac delay rules. But remember, check with airlines before you depart for the airport to ensure your flight isn't canceled. And keep abreast of changing weather conditions, which may impact your flight.