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When it comes to travel, few things are more annoying than having the start of your trip delayed by a long wait for your flight to even takeoff. Many fliers – nails buried in their armrests, eyes fixed on the adjacent terminal – are familiar with the frustration of long tarmac delays. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) feels your pain, and has a number of rules and regulations to put the kibosh on delays. Unfortunately, two airlines skirted the rules, and will have to pay a hefty price.
The DOT fined both Virgin America and Copa Airlines of Panama for violating federal rules prohibiting long tarmac delays. Virgin America was hit with a $55,000 fine, while Copa received a whopping $150,000. Federal regulation dictates that airlines must allow passengers to disembark an aircraft if they have been waiting on a tarmac for more than three hours on domestic flights, or four hours on international flights. Should a flight be delayed at the gate, the airline must announce passengers are permitted to deplane 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, and every 30 minutes after. Exceptions are made if the delay is due to safety, security, or air traffic control reasons. Depending on the length of the delay, carriers can be fined up to $27,500 per person.
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