US fines Japan Airlines $300,000 for flight delays that trapped passengers in grounded planes for hours

Flight delays are frustrating for travelers but can be worse for airlines like Japan Airlines. The flag carrier of Japan was recently fined heavily by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for flight delays that trapped passengers in grounded planes for hours. Heavy fine of $300,000 was levied upon JAL for violating the tarmac rule of requiring passengers to deplane by the 4-hour mark in case of irregular operations. DOT relates to two separate incidents where passengers were forced to wait on board their flights for more than four hours after landing. However, extreme weather had played a major part in the extended delay in both incidents.

US fines Japan Airlines $300,000 for flight delays
US fines Japan Airlines $300,000 for flight delays

Japan Airlines fined for violating the Tarmac Rule

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Japanese carrier had violated the tarmac rules. In case of emergency or irregular operations, airlines must allow passengers to depart or deplane within 4 hours. JAL had violated this rule twice in 2018 when its flights bound for US were diverted to the alternate airports of Chicago and Washington Dulles due to stormy weather.

Last year on May 15, its Tokyo-New York flight was diverted to Dulles Airport near Washington owing to severe thunderstorm. Unfortunately, passengers were trapped on board for five hours. Also, the airline crew members had reached the end of their shift. Another incident occurred on Jan 4, 2018 when its Tokyo-New York flight landed in Chicago airport and there was no airline staff to help passengers off the plane.  They were stuck on-board for more than four hours. In both the incidents, JAL had operational issues in deplaning before the four- hour mark. However, Japan Airlines has blamed the weather-related airport congestion.

On 12 September 2019, the US Department of Transportation has issued a $300,000 fine to the Japanese airline for the incidents occurred on 4 January and 15 May 2018. While JAL disagrees with the DOT’s decision, the lengthy tarmac delay rules were indeed broken. Though weather was the major factor in the flight delays, the airline had ensured its flight crew kept passengers informed about the ongoing situation and provided food and drink during both incidents. Under an agreement with DOT, the Japanese carrier gets credit for $60,000 spent in compensation to the affected passengers while $120,000 will be waived if the airline violates the rule again for one year.


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