American Eagle in November earned the ignominious distinction of becoming the first airline fined by the DOT for violating the so-called tarmac delay rule, which took effect in April. The $900,000 fine resulted from several delays resulting from fog, low visibility and thunderstorms around Chicago O’Hare International Airport on May 29. All told, 608 passengers waited for longer than the statutory maximum of three hours on 15 inbound flights.
According to a November 14 DOT consent order, the conditions prompted ATC to institute ground stops, arrival delays and gate holds between 5:20 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. After the airport returned to normal operation, Eagle continued to flights into ORD, even though other airplanes scheduled to depart later in the afternoon and evening occupied all its available gates, forcing the inbound airplanes to hold at various waiting areas.
In many cases, the airplanes parked at the Eagle gates could not depart due to the lack of crew availability. In fact, many of the same crewmembers scheduled to fly on the outbound airplanes found themselves caught on the parked inbound equipment.