American Airlines Fined $4.1 Million For Leaving Passengers Sitting On The Tarmac For Too Long

American airlines planes

Photo: Gene J. Puskar (AP)

Even at its best, air travel is really only ever OK. You can always try to make it suck less by drinking alcohol, but then you have to get up and use the tiny questionably sanitary bathrooms more often. But while no one’s ever truly having the time of their lives on a commercial airline, there are plenty of things that can go wrong that make your flight miserable. Like missing your connection because your first flight got delayed. Or a storm causing thousands of flights to get canceled. Or getting stuck on the tarmac for hours while waiting to hopefully take off eventually.

Sadly, there isn’t much that can be done about storms, but the United States Department of Transportation is at least attempting to do something about that last issue. In fact, Bloomberg reports that the DOT just fined American Airlines $4.1 million for leaving passengers sitting on the tarmac for too long. It’s currently against the law to keep passengers on the tarmac for longer than three hours without returning to the gate to allow them to get off. And according to the DOT, American Airlines broke that law at least 43 times between 2018 and 2021.

“This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Whether the issue is extreme tarmac delays or problems getting refunds, DOT will continue to protect consumers and hold airlines accountable.”

“American always strives to deliver a positive travel experience to our customers and takes very seriously our responsibility to comply with all Department of Transportation requirements,” American Airlines told Bloomberg.

The $4.1 million fine is the largest ever handed out for delayed flights, and half of it will be used to compensate the 5,821 passengers who were on those affected flights. If we’re doing our math correctly, that only works out to about $350 per person, which isn’t exactly much. Then again, it should still be enough to take the whole family out for dinner at Texas Roadhouse, which could be a nice treat.