The US Department of Transportation (DOT) imposed a fine of $1.1 million on United Airlines for stranding passengers on the tarmac for more than three hours in July 2012 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
The incident involved 13 United and United Express aircraft and occurred on a stormy day on July 30, 2012, when severe thunderstorms and lightning caused several ramp closures and disrupted the movement of aircraft at O’Hare.
DOT said that passengers were made to wait on the tarmac for up to 4 hours and 17 minutes and United failed to contact airport personnel or other airlines for help.
Out of the $1.1 million fine amount, the airline will pay the government $475,000, while $185,000 will be given as compensation to affected passengers, including those who had to wait on the tarmac for less than three hours.
The remaining $440,000 will be used by United to implement a surveillance system for monitoring the location of each of its planes on the airfield.
Under DOT rules, airlines can be fined for stranding passengers on domestic flights on the tarmac for longer than three hours without giving them the opportunity to get off the plane.
This is the largest fine levied on an airline by DOT since this regulation went into effect in 2010.