Government issues “precedent-setting” fines against three airlines in Rochester delay incident

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Remember last summer’s overnight tarmac stranding incident in Rochester, Minn.? The government does. This morning it issued what it called a “precedent-setting” series of fines against three airlines in connection with the lengthy ground delay.

The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines $100,000 for their roles in the Continental Express flight 2816 delay, in which passengers were trapped on an aircraft for a total of 9 1/2 hours. The government also assessed a civil penalty of $75,000 against Mesaba Airlines, which provided ground handling for the flight, for its part in the incident.

But that’s not the most interesting part of the story.
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Tarmac delay hall of shame: US Airways loses in latest month

airwaysUnlike some of my esteemed travel writing colleagues, I won’t make the mistake of confusing a few tarmac delay activists with the entire passenger rights movement. Still, the August airline performance numbers, which have just been released by our friends at the Department of Transportation, merit a closer look.

You might think ExpressJet Airlines flight 2816 would be a standout. Not quite correct.
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Transportation Department shifts blame in tarmac incident to Mesaba

mesabaThis is an interesting twist.

Remember the Continental/ExpressJet tarmac incident earlier this month? Everyone was quick to blame the airline for holding passengers overnight against their will in Rochester, Minn. Now, a preliminary investigation by the Transportation Department has found that Mesaba, a regional carrier owned by Delta Air Lines, was the likely culprit.
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Business travel group supports turn-back law for airlines — who will join it?

erjMore fallout from ExpressJet Airlines 2816 fiasco: The National Business Travel Association has thrown its weight behind a “turn back” rule for airlines, a remarkable reversal for an organization with a consistent pro-business and often pro-airline record.

The move leaves the US airline industry almost entirely friendless in Washington, at least when it comes to passenger rights legislation being considered by Congress, and it may be one of the final nails in the coffin of efforts to keep the government from regulating the controversial tarmac delays that have attracted so much public attention recently.
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Continental Airlines faces $27,500 fine in tarmac stranding incident

ejetThe Transportation Department this morning a sent a letter to Continental Airlines inquiring into the circumstances of its recent Continental/Express Jet flight 2816 extended delay. So what’s next? I asked Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosley.

You’ve sent a letter to Continental, asking for details on the ExpressJet Airlines flight 2816 tarmac delay. What kind of sanctions are available to the department for keeping passengers on a plane for nine hours?

If the airline has violated its contract of carriage or customer service commitments, DOT could pursue enforcement action alleging that the carrier engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of 49 U.S.C 41712. If violations are proven, the carrier would be subject to a cease and desist order and civil penalties of up to $27,500 per violation.
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