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United Airlines fined $130K for holding passengers for 5-hour delay

Feb 13, 2013 12:47 am

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Many DOT fines result from airlines’ on-the-ground operations failing to carry out small steps, which suggests better communication could results in savings of thousands of dollars.

— Samantha Shankman

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United Airlines flight sits at the gate at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Ron Zack / Flickr


Chicago-based United Airlines was fined $130,000 by regulators for not informing passengers they could leave the airplane after a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Japan was delayed for about five hours last May, the Department of Transportation said Monday.

The airline violated federal rules by not notifying passengers they had an opportunity to leave United Flight 881, scheduled to fly from O’Hare to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on May 7, as it sat at the gate with the door open. The aircraft pushed back from the gate at 12:38 p.m. but returned at 2:25 p.m. for maintenance, the DOT said. The aircraft doors were closed again at 3:10, but because of another mechanical problem the flight was canceled, and passengers deplaned at 5:22 p.m.

United failed to make an announcement notifying passengers of an opportunity to leave the plane as required by DOT’s rules, which took effect in August 2011.

“It’s very simple — if a plane is delayed at the gate and it’s possible for passengers to leave, the airline must tell them of their rights,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We adopted our tarmac delay rules to protect passengers’ rights and will continue to take enforcement action when necessary.”

Three passengers filed complaints about the delay.

United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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