The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today said United Airlines violated federal rules last May by not informing passengers on an aircraft delayed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport that they had an opportunity to leave the plane as it sat at the gate with the door open.
DOT fined United $130,000 and ordered the airline to cease and desist from further violations.
United violated a provision of the DOT’s airline consumer protection rule, which took effect in August 2011, requiring that if passengers on a delayed flight have the opportunity to leave the aircraft, the carrier must inform them that they can deplane. Announcements that passengers can leave the plane must be made 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and every 30 minutes afterward.
“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We adopted our tarmac delay rules to protect passengers’ rights and will continue to take enforcement action when necessary.”
United Flight 881 was scheduled to fly from O’Hare to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on May 7, 2012. The aircraft was pushed back at 12:38 p.m. but returned to a gate at 2:25 for maintenance, at which time the doors were opened. However, United failed to make an announcement notifying passengers of that opportunity to leave the plane as required by DOT’s rules.
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. Three passengers on board the flight filed complaints with the Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division regarding this delay.