WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced that British Airways violated federal rules involving lengthy tarmac delays on two separate flights in November 2012. DOT fined British Airways $225,000 and ordered the airline to cease and desist from further violations.
“Airline passengers have rights, and the Department’s tarmac delay rules are meant to prevent passengers from being stuck on an aircraft on the ground for hours on end,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our tarmac delay rules and other consumer protection rules.”
Airlines may not allow tarmac delays longer than four hours on international flights at U.S. airports without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane. Exceptions are allowed only for safety, security, and air traffic control-related reasons. In addition, if a flight is delayed at the gate and passengers are able to leave the plane, the carrier must announce the opportunity to deplane if the opportunity to deplane actually exists.
British Airways Flight 184 was scheduled to fly from Newark, N.J. to London Heathrow Airport on November 7, 2012 at 6:50 p.m. The aircraft doors were closed at 6:51 p.m., however, due to severe weather conditions, the aircraft was detached from the jetway for de-icing. Because reattaching the aircraft to the jetway to deplane passengers would likely have disrupted the de-icing attempts and resulted in cancellation of the flight, the aircraft was delayed at Newark for five hours and thirty-four minutes. An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that British Airways failed to provide passengers an opportunity to deplane before the flight had been on the tarmac for more than four hours and that the decision not to provide passengers with an opportunity to deplane was an operational decision that does not fit within the safety exception of the tarmac delay rule.
In addition, British Airways Flight 214 was scheduled to depart from Boston to London Heathrow Airport on November 15, 2012 at 9:00 p.m., and pushed off the gate at 9:34 p.m. At approximately 10:00 p.m., the aircraft returned to the gate because of a mechanical issue and the doors were opened. The aircraft remained at the gate with its doors open until passengers deplaned at 2:00 a.m. An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that British Airways did not announce that passengers had the opportunity to deplane while the aircraft was at the gate with its doors open.
The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2014-0001.