Passenger safety and comfort are most important for Airlines and to ensure these, Department of Transportation has a defined set of rules. Failing to comply with these rules may cost airlines. Recently Southwest Airlines was fined US $1.6 million for not letting passengers get off the planes that were stuck on the ground for hours during a freezing winter storm in Chicago. This amount is by far a record fine for any airline for violating federal rules against long tarmac delays.
Out of this US $1.6 million fine, the airline will only have to pay $60,000. $269,000 was given as credit to the airline because this amount was compensated the passengers and $431,000 was spent on new equipment and rest of the $300,000 will be waived in events of Southwest airlines not breaking any rules in the next year.
According to the The Department of Transportation, this fine covered the 16 planes stuck on the ground for at least three hours after landing at Chicago’s Midway Airport and in-turn kept passenger waiting inside the planes for three hours. The delay were caused because the Airline did not have enough employees for handling baggage, snow removal, De-iceing planes and move the planes to and from gates.
In response to this fine, the airline officials explained that delay were caused because of the challenging weather conditions like below zero temperatures, blowing snow and in-turn their employees calling in sick. Southwest was also dealing with a shortage of ramp workers. In filings related to a union lawsuit in federal court in Dallas, Southwest has said that it was dealing with an “inexplicable increase” in sick calls by Midway ground employees that was widely seen as a protest over stalled contract talks.