British Airways has been fined $135,000 by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) for keeping passengers delayed on the tarmac in poor weather for over four hours on December 7, 2017.
The airline received the fine after its scheduled flight from Austin Bergstrom International Airport to London Heathrow Airport left 185 passengers stuck onboard its Boeing 787 Dreamliner as they waited for the flight to depart.
The plane which had taxied away from the gate was undergoing a deicing process when the deicing truck ran out of fluid and had to get refilled. The airline had only one deicing truck in Austin at the time and the deicing process exceeded the four hours delay length set by USDOT. The plane departed for London 15 minutes after the deicing process was completed.
British Airways Breaks Consumer Protection Rule
USDOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection conducted a lengthy investigation into the incident and found British Airways responsible for breaching tarmac delay regulations. According to USDOT regulations, airlines are required to give passengers the opportunity to deplane when the length of the tarmac delay reaches four hours for international flights while for domestic flights, the length of tarmac delay is three hours.
The airline is said to have breached this regulation by keeping passengers onboard for more than four hours while the deicing process lasted.
British Airways Disagrees With USDOT
British Airways believes the incident does not justify USDOT enforcement. According to a statement from the airline, “British Airways recognizes that the second deicing was completed after the four-hour tarmac delay deadline but believes that the circumstances of this incident do not call for enforcement action”. The airline argued that the delay was “reasonable and consistent with the objective of transporting the passengers to their desired destination”.
British Airways also disagreed with the way the fine was calculated as the regulators viewed the violation on a per-passenger basis instead of a per-flight basis.
However, the airline agreed to cease and desist from similar violations in the future as part of its settlement. The USDOT also said the airline, whose parent company International Airlines Group recorded profits in its financial performance in 2022, must pay $67,500 within 30 days and the rest within one year if it violates the order.
This is not the first time the airline is fined for breaching USDOT regulations as it also received a fine of $225,000 in 2014 for two separate lengthy tarmac delays in November 2012.
What are your thoughts about this? Have you been affected by lengthy delays like this? Let us know in the comments below!