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Lengthy airline delays drop in June, report says

August 10, 2010 | 11:28 am

United airlinesLong airline delays have dropped dramatically since federal officials adopted fines against air carriers that strand passengers on grounded planes, according to a study released Tuesday.

The monthly analysis of the nation's largest airlines by the Department of Transportation showed that only three flights in June were delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours. By comparison, 268 flights were delayed more than three hours in June 2009, before the fines were adopted.

Under a new policy that took effect April 29, airlines that strand passengers on a delayed flight for three hours or more without returning them to the terminal can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.

The three flights that held passengers on the tarmac for more than three hours in June all involved United Airlines, delayed by severe thunderstorms on June 18 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Last month, the Department of Transportation reported that five flights were delayed more than three hours in May but a subsequent investigation found that four of those flights did not violate the three-hour time limit. The fifth flight is still under investigation. 

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said no airline has yet to be fined under the new policy.

The latest government report shows that the rate of flight cancellations, 1.5% in June, remains unchanged from the rate in June 2009.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: United Airlines planes at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times