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Feds reject request to exempt airlines from fines

April 22, 2010 |  4:13 pm

JetBlue The U.S. Department of Transportation denied Thursday a request by five airlines to temporarily exempt them from new penalties for stranding passengers on delayed flights.

JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and US Airways all requested temporary exemption from the fines that take effect April 29. Under the new rules, airlines that leave passengers stranded on a delayed plane for more than three hours without letting them off the aircraft can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.

JetBlue, Delta and American all asked for the exemption for any delays at New York's JFK Airport because of runway construction that will last until December. Continental asked for an exemption from delays at New York's LaGuardia Airport and Newark International Airport and US Airways requested a waiver for delays at Philadelphia International Airport, all arguing that the construction at JFK airport would result in more delays throughout the region.

In denying the request, the agency concluded that the airlines could avoid delays by rerouting or rescheduling flights at JFK and surrounding airports.

"Passengers on flights delayed on the tarmac have a right to know they will not be held aboard a plane indefinitely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A crew from JetBlue watch a flight depart from Burbank. Credit: Los Angeles Times