U.S. Department of Transportation Fines Southwest $1.6 Million for Violating Tarmac Delay Rule


Corn Field
Nov 11, 2003
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced that Southwest Airlines violated federal rules involving lengthy tarmac delays last January.  Southwest failed to offer passengers on 16 aircraft delayed at Chicago Midway International Airport (Midway) the opportunity to deplane within three hours of arrival and failed to have sufficient staff available to implement its Tarmac Delay Contingency Plan.  DOT fined Southwest $1.6 million and ordered the airline to cease and desist from further violations.  This is the largest civil penalty that the Department has assessed a carrier for violating the DOT’s tarmac delay rules.
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some of us said when WN's operational meltdown occurred that this would be the outcome.

too bad WN couldn't have used the amount they are going to spend on a DOT fine for more pay for rampers.
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Too bad all the money DL is spending on their anti-union propaganda could be used to help pay for their employees' prescription costs:
I am seeing a horror story of utmost sadness brought on by Delta's new insurance policy. As a retired flight attendant for this great airline I am truly dismayed that this company is now becoming like Walmart making the employees who are very sick use outside resources for help because of the high deductible all of you have to pay. While the company continues to prosper, the employees receive less benefits and more intimidation. What happened to the company that took care of their sick employees? Larisa Bolyard is out with colon cancer and has to use social workers and outside programs to get her chemo medication covered. What she paid just a 10$ co-pay for last year is now going to cost her over 1000$ for just one prescription while she is bringing home only 800$ in disability pay. Would Delta just let her die? It seems that way to me. It is a sad day for me as a former employee to see such a great company do this, all the while making record profits and giving shareholders dividends.
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Too bad all the money DL is spending on their anti-union propaganda could be used to help pay for their employees' prescription costs:
you can't even stay on the topic you started, can you?

the topic is WN's failure to get planes on/off the ramp during IROPS which came in the middle of calls by their rampers that WN's ramp operation was short-staffed.

DL and its prescription programs have nothing to do with it..... unless of course you would like to note that DL employees manage to do their jobs and do them well regardless of the benefits the company offers.
I would be curious to see their Tarmac Delay Contingency Plan, and how it compares/contrasts with other carriers. I'd also be curious what moves they've made in the meantime to avoid a repeat of what occurred at MDW.
I'm sure there was nothing wrong with WN's plan... but all the best laid plans of mice and men do no good if there isn't enough staff to carry it out.

you have to wonder why when it was apparent that WN was going to bust the rule by a wide margin, there wasn't a plan to start pulling planes up to gates to deplane and get the passengers off the planes - or use remote deplaning. There are no massive fines if bags are left on the planes and take a day or two to get connected to passengers. There are massive fines for leaving passengers on the plane.

btw, the last major fine for failing to manage passenger deplaning was against US in CLT during winter weather. the same question could be asked why THEY didn't have a plan.

both US and WN knew the rule full well. the only difference is that WN uses larger aircraft on average than US and its regional carriers use at CLT so the fines mount up much faster.
WorldTraveler said:
too bad WN couldn't have used the amount they are going to spend on a DOT fine for more pay for rampers.
WorldTraveler said:
you can't even stay on the topic you started, can you?
the topic is WN and the meltdown of its MDW operation.

perhaps you can tell WN how to fix the problem but I don't think for a minute that the problem is that they don't have the procedures or policies to deal with this.

the problem at its core was labor related.

The fact that WN has made enormous improvement in its overall operational reliability and has done that by increasing ground times says that the rampers' arguments had validity.

WN couldn't do with its labor force what mgmt. wanted even on the best of days, let alone in an IROP situation.

the rampers spoke out and highlighted an operation that was not scheduled appropriately and with inadequate people. WN at least has removed some of the pressure from the operation with a more reliable schedule.
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BS  the problem was MGMT Failure to curb the number of flights going into the airport   and for failing to staff properly   improper staffing leads to delays
thank you for confirming my original observation that if WN had spent the money on ramp help, they could have avoided the fine.

even if WN had procedures but no ramp staff - even mgmt. staff that could have stepped in and dealt with the grievance later - they could have unloaded the aircraft and dealt the bags later.

the investment in ramp staff could have easily been less than the cost of the fine.
NO ONE? are you sure... they didn't even have enough people to figure out how to pull the planes off to the gate after unloading?

no mgmt. personnel?

if you want to tell me it was that bad, then why did 555 talk about short staffing and particularly cited MDW even before and esp. after the event?
Hmmm. ATL had kids stuck on school buses overnight, and some people stranded for up to 24 hours during a somewhat "routine anywhere else" ice storm, and yet people want to criticize rampers in Chicago not being able to get to work after a 10" snowfall on 02Jan14?

I've lived there and survived far more winters than I care to count. Sidestreets aren't guaranteed to be plowed for up to 24 hours until after a snowfall, and when you can't get your car out, and when buses and subway stops running reliably in your neighborhood, you can't get to work. When I was taking the train into the city, I'd have to allow twice as much time if it was below 30F (never mind if there was any snow on the ground), mainly due to frozen switches and broken power or rolling stock.

The unions can try to make hay out of the issue for their own benefit if they want to, but no amount of over or understaffing could have prevented this.

WN's real mistake was not canceling or diverting flights when they realized how many airplanes were already on the ground.
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the DOT doesn't have authority to fine the city of Atlanta or its school system.

I have lived in Chicago. I am well aware of what can go on.

all of your arguments might stand a chance to be believed as the sole reason if 555 hadn't SPECIFICALLY talked about WN's short staffing on the ramp and repeatedly cited MDW. WN's OT performance at MDW for years has been well below the rest of its system - even when weather was not an issue.

the weather might have pushed the operation over the edge but the problem was there all along due to staffing levels.

yes, WN's operational control people screwed up as badly as B6 did in the Valentine's Day storm and operational meltdown at JFK.

but unlike B6 at JFK, WN's rampers had repeatedly and publicly said that WN's MDW ramp operations were understaffed.

regardless of the reason, the DOT gave the fine and it is highly unlikely that WN will get out of it.

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