Japan Airlines fined €300,000 by US DOT for violating tarmac delay rules

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Japan Airlines (JAL) has been fined $300,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) for violating tarmac delay rules. On two occasions, the airline kept passengers stuck on aircraft. 

On 4 January 2018, Winter Storm Grayson, a powerful Nor’easter, arrived in the New York
Metropolitan area and severely disrupted air transportation operations at John F. Kennedy
International Airport (JFK). The storm caused below-freezing temperatures, strong winds
(approximately 45 knots), low visibility and approximately 8.5 inches of snow.

On the morning of January 4th, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) announced that it would close JFK for a few hours, and then ultimately decided to close the airport for the remainder of the day. JFK remained closed for approximately 19 hours starting the morning of January 4th until the morning of January 5th. Although the airport reopened on Friday, January 5th, operations at JFK were disrupted through Sunday, January 7th.

JAL flight JL004, which departed Tokyo-Narita International Airport (NRT) bound for JFK,
experienced a tarmac delay of 4 hours and 31 minutes when it diverted to ORD on January 4, 2018. When flight JL004 arrived at ORD, there was congestion on the airfield as a result of multiple flights that had diverted to the airport. JFK had temporarily closed when flight JL004 arrived at ORD, but JAL did not know until 57 minutes into the delay that JFK would be closing until the next morning.

JAL contacted ORD after being on the tarmac for approximately 1 hour, and the airport informed JAL that it had buses and stairs ready to assist JAL with deplaning. JAL cancelled JL004 after 1 hour 39 minutes into the delay and decided to remain in Chicago for the night. Approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes into the delay, ORD had buses and stairs at the aircraft ready to assist JAL with deplaning. JAL’s service staff, who were needed to disembark passengers, did not arrive at the aircraft until 4 hours 22 minutes into the delay. Passengers were ultimately deplaned 4 hours and 31 minutes into the delay. JAL violated 14 CFR 259.4 and 49 U.S.C. § 41712 when it failed to provide passengers on flight JL004 an opportunity to deplane by the required four-hour mark.

In addition to the tarmac delay that occurred at ORD on January 4, 2018, this order also covers a tarmac delay experienced by JAL Flight JL004 on May 15, 2018, at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Flight 004 departed from NRT bound for JFK on May 15, 2018, but was unable to land at JFK due to severe thunderstorm activity in the New York metro area. As a result, Flight 004 diverted to IAD to refuel in anticipation of heading to JFK when the weather improved.

Fueling commenced approximately 3 hours and 24 minutes into the delay, but 4 hours and 4 minutes into the delay, while Flight 004 was still in the process of receiving fuel, the crew onboard Flight JL004 timed out. Flight JL004 requested deplaning assistance and passengers were provided the opportunity to deplane the aircraft onto a mobile lounge 4 hours and 59 minutes into the delay. In this instance, JAL violated 14 CFR 259.4 and 49 U.S.C. § 41712 when it failed to provide passengers on Flight JL004 an opportunity to deplane by the required four-hour mark.

Only a portion of the $300,000 will likely be paid as the US DOT has waived $60,000 which is equivalent to the amount the airline paid out to passengers in compensation, and a further $120,000 is waived if JAL avoids any similar incidents over the next 12 months.

JAL blamed both on weather related issues.

Source: Document US DOT

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