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The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined JetBlue Airways $90,000 for failure to inform passengers on a delayed flight that they had the right to leave the plane while it remained at a John F. Kennedy International Airport departure gate.
The federal agency said the March 3 incident involved the Long Island City-based JetBlue Flight 645 from JFK to San Francisco with an original departure time of 7:30 p.m.
The DOT said passengers began boarding the plane just after 7 p.m., but a delay developed and doors were not shut in preparation for departure until 9:55 p.m.
According to the DOT’s airline consumer protection regulations, airlines must inform passengers when they have the right to leave the plane during waiting times.
The DOT Aviation Enforcement Office reported that it had determined that passengers were not told they had a chance to disembark from the jetliner during the delay despite the plane’s doors remaining open, providing an egress for passengers who wanted to leave.
The regulation specifies that airline crews must announce that passengers are free to leave the plane 30 minutes after the original departure time and every half hour thereafter. The rule allowing passengers to leave delayed planes became effective in August 2011.
“Airlines may not leave passengers stranded indefinitely aboard an aircraft, whether on the tarmac or at the gate and passengers must be told if they are able to leave the plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in discussing the fine.
Tamara Young, manager of Corporate Communications for JetBlue, said in reference to the DOT fine, “Our policy regarding on-board ground delays, outlined in our bill of rights, is industry-leading. However, we did not provide our customers with regular updates in this instance. This is not an example of the JetBlue experience. For this, we fully acknowledge our fault and will comply with the DOT ruling. We now have a fully compliant plan in place.”
In late October 2011, passengers on a JetBlue flight forced to land in Hartford, Conn., during an unseasonable blizzard were stranded on the runway for about eight hours, while travelers on a JetBlue flight stuck at Kennedy in a major snowstorm back in 2011 spent 11 hours in the aircraft before being allowed to leave.
Under the three-hour tarmac rule enacted by the DOT in April 2011, an airline can be fined $27,500 per passenger if it does not allow air travelers on domestic flights to get off the plane after it has been delayed on the tarmac more than three hours.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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