U.S. Department of Transportation Fines Pakistan Int'l Airlines $150,000 for Violating Tarmac Delay Rule

U.S. Department of Transportation Fines Pakistan Int'l Airlines $150,000 for Violating Tarmac Delay Rule

The U.S. Department of Transportation imposed a $150,000 civil penalty on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for violating the relatively new "tarmac delay" rule.  PAIOrder In this case, the flight from Manchester (UK) to New York's JFK International Airport diverted to Washington Dulles International during an October 2011 "early winter weather event" which caused significant equipment issues outages at JFK and major Air Traffic Control issues throughout the Northeast United States.  The captain of the flight tried to divert to PIA's principal diversion airport, Boston Logan, but Logan was unable to accommodate the flight due to a high volume of diverted international flights arriving there.  Accordingly, due to the limited amount of fuel remaining, the captain diverted the flight to Dulles, another airport which had been given a copy of PIA's tarmac delay plan in August 2011.   The aircraft was directed to a remote aircraft bay/de-icing pad.  The crew intended the stop to be simply for refueling, but refueling was delayed because of the demand for fuel by numerous other diverted aircraft and the PIA aircraft's remote location. The flight crew exited the aircraft via air stairs to conduct external safety inspections of the aircraft but concluded that it was not safe to deplane the passengers by the stairs, particularly given the inclement weather and the fact that there were a number of children onboard, as well as a number of passengers requiring wheelchairs.  The Department nonetheless found that PIA violated the tarmac delay rule because its efforts to deplane were inadequate:

PIA made no other attempts to deplane passengers on flight 711 by any other means (e.g., via a gate or mobile airport lounge) or to solicit assistance from the airport operator in deplaning because, according to PIA, the passengers did not indicate a desire to deplane during the tarmac delay.  PIA also never contacted CBP at IAD to inquire about deplaning passengers."
Although no passengers complained during or since the episode about the delay or PIA's handling of it, the Department concluded that PIA had violated the tarmac delay rule when it was delayed on the tarmac for more than four hours.  Accordingly, it imposed a civil penalty of $150,000 on PIA with half suspended and to be forgiven if PIA does not violate the cease-and-desist provision before November 1, 2014.

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