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United Airlines Faces Department of Transportation Fine

United Airlines faces a $1.9 million fine from the Department of Transportation for violating federal statutes and a DOT rule prohibiting long tarmac delays.

United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report on Friday was fined $1.9 million by the Department of Transportation for violating federal statutes and a DOT rule prohibiting long tarmac delays.

In issuing United its largest fine for tarmac violations, the department also ordered the airline to cease and desist from future similar violations, according to a Friday DOT statement.

The department's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection in an extensive investigation found that between December 2015 and February 2021, United allowed 20 domestic flights and five international flights at various airports in the U.S. to remain on the tarmac for a lengthy period of time without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane, in violation of DOT's tarmac delay rule.

The tarmac delays affected 3,218 passengers, the statement said.

The department's tarmac delay rule prohibits airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours at U.S. airports and their international flights to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours at U.S. airports without allowing passengers to leave the plane.

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The tarmac delay rule took effect in 2010 for domestic flights and was expanded to international flights in 2011. An exception exists for departure delays if an airline begins to return the plane to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers.

Another exception to the time limit is allowed for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. The rule requires airlines to provide adequate food and water, ensure lavatories are working and, if necessary, provide medical attention to passengers during long tarmac delays.   

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Shares of United on Friday rose 0.2% to $48.89 in after hours trade.