I know this story has been widely reported already, but I just have to chime in and express my outrage over the recent $12,000 fine levied against United for erroneously reporting that it had violated tarmac delay rules in May.
Here’s what happened: On May 26 thunderstorms at Denver International led to a temporary airport closure and four planes were diverted to Colorado Springs. Tarmac delays on those diverted flights ranged from 3 hours and 10 minutes to 4 hours and 41 minutes. Thinking it had violated the new three hour DOT rules, UA ratted on itself. What UA didn’t realize, though, was that the three hour clock stopped ticking when UA allowed passengers to disembark from the plane (although apparently all chose to stay on). This offer was extended well before the three hour limit expired.
Rather than congratulate United for being proactive and commending them for not breaking the controversial new rules, the DOT fined UA for "wasting" the department’s time.
“United’s misreporting of this data wasted valuable department resources,” said the consent order, since the United report forced the Transportation Department’s enforcement office to initiate an investigation.
As United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson stated, " We are committed to providing fully accurate data to the (Transportation Department). It is unfortunate that our effort to be fully transparent resulted in our inadvertently reporting four flight delays where we complied with regulations and with our own procedures to ensure the comfort and safety of our customers and employees."
PR fluff aside, what did UA do wrong other than make an honest mistake? To penalize for them for following DOT regulations strikes me as capricious and unjust.
If I were Tilton and Smisek, I would hold a press conference defiantly stating that the DOT fine will be ignored and that if the DOT really wants to collect, it can sue for the money.