Southwest Airlines Ordered To Pay $1.6 Million Fine For January 2014 Tarmac Delays

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On January 2 and 3, 2014, Southwest Airlines had 16 flights on the ground at Chicago’s Midway (MDW) airport that kept hundreds of passengers locked inside planes on the tarmac for more than 3 hours after landing at MDW. This earned Southwest airlines a record $1.6 million dollar civil fine by the Department of Transportation that the airline has agreed to pay.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 2.22.23 PMAccording to Bloomberg News, the DOT is attributing Southwest’s tarmac issues that lead to the passengers being trapped were weather conditions, malfunctions of the airline’s crew scheduling system, and a staffing shortage of Southwest Airlines in MDW.

The incidents occurred around the time of a storm that dropped more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow on the Chicago area. The 16 flights were stuck on the tarmac for an average of 3 hours 39 minutes, with the longest delay being more than 4 hours, according to a consent order between the agency and the airline.


The order shows that $700,000 has already been paid as compensation to passengers and for the cost of buying new equipment to help track the airline’s planes on the ground.

Southwest must pay $600,000 more in fines within 30 days of the Jan. 15 consent order. The government agreed to waive the remaining $300,000 of the $1.6 million balance if the Dallas-based company doesn’t have any new violations within the next year.

The company agreed to pay the fine to avoid litigation, according to the settlement.

Bottom Line:

The longest tarmac delay I have experienced was just over two hours and it was miserable. I can’t imagine being on the ground trapped in a plane that long, especially on a Southwest plane for even longer than that without power outlets. Has anyone experienced lengthy tarmac delays … and what was the outcome?

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  1. I was held hostage on the tarmac at DTW in 1997. It was during the summer when NW was having labor disputes. It was well over three hours. It was over a hundred degrees outside. As you know a planes ac does not work well on the ground. I started having a asthma attack from being over heated. The fa wasn’t going to let me get my briefcase out of the overhead bin to retrieve my inhalers….I told her to either let me get my inhalers or declare an emergency her choice.

    It ended up I could have driven home from mke quicker than the plane with the hostage time and a 45 minute drive home from dtw.

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