DENVER – The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday announced that it is fining Denver-based Frontier Airlines $1.5 million for leaving passengers in planes on the tarmac for hours during a snowstorm last December.
Passengers arriving in Denver between Dec. 16 and 18 spent as long as five hours on the tarmac and baggage piled up in the airport’s baggage claim area.
The DOT said it is imposing the fine because of failures on Frontier’s part that led to the lengthy delays, which are in violation of DOT rules.
Those rules prohibit large airlines from leaving domestic flights on the tarmac for more than three hours without allowing passengers to get off the plane. Exceptions are allowed for safety, security and traffic-control reasons.
Transportation officials said Frontier didn’t make the necessary adjustments to its operations that could have avoided the fiasco, such as adding more staff and canceling incoming flights. Officials said Frontier also did not accept services offered by the airport.
In a statment, Frontier said it has implemented changes to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future:
Frontier remains committed to complying with DOT rules and regulations, including those relating to lengthy tarmac delays. During last December’s crippling storm, our operation in Denver was faced with a myriad of operational challenges. We have since revised our procedures for irregular winter weather operations and have worked with DIA’s airport authority to implement a drop-and-go deplaning process that will prevent any future occurrences.
The DOT said $900,000 of the $1.5 million fine will be credited to Frontier for compensating passengers on the affected flights.