Japan Airlines Fined $300,000 For Failing To Let Delayed Passengers Deplane

The US Department of Transportation has issued a $300,000 fine to Japan Airlines. It relates to two separate incidents where passengers were forced to wait on board their flights for more than four hours after landing. Extreme weather played a part in the extended delay in both incidents.

A JAL Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Bad weather was to blame for the extended delay in both incidents. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

On 12 September, the US Department of Transportation issued a $300,000 fine to Japan Airlines for incidents which occurred on 4 January and 15 May 2018. According to reports by Flight Global, both incidents happened aboard flight JL004 flying from Tokyo Narita Airport.

During the first incident, flight JL004 had to divert to Chicago O’Hare Airport because of a severe snowstorm, which forced John F. Kennedy International to close for 24 hours. Passengers were kept on board the aircraft as it waited at Chicago O’Hare for more than four hours.

In the second incident, flight JL004 was forced to divert to Washington Dulles International Airport, this time due to severe thunderstorms around New York. Again, passengers were forced to stay on the aircraft for a total of 4 hours 59 minutes. At this point, the crew reached the end of their maximum shift duration and had to leave the aircraft.

A Japan Airlines Boeing 777
Japan Airlines says the delays were out of its hands. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

In both cases, the US Department of Transportation says Japan Airlines violated stay on tarmac rules, which state that passengers cannot be kept aboard their flights involuntarily for more than four hours. Of the $300,000 fine, $60,000 dollars will be allocated to cash compensation and travel vouchers for passengers on both flights.

The decision to fine Japan Airlines

While the airline disagrees with the Department of Transportation’s decision, the lengthy tarmac delay rules were clearly broken. The weather was the major factor in the delays, and Japan Airlines’ account of both incidents shows that there were factors at play which largely took the decision out of its hands.

Japan Airlines ensured its flight crew kept passengers informed about the ongoing situation and provided food and drink during both incidents. It also says that a lack of action by airport staff and other on-ground crews played a large role in the delays.

Unfortunately for Japan Airlines, this is not the first fine the airline has received in the past year.

Back in December, the airline received an official warning from the Japanese Ministry for Transport for having too many drunk pilots and crew aboard its flights.

Japan Airlines’ response

Japan Airlines was unable to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on the US Department of Transportation fines.

It has, however, agreed to pay the $300,000 fine in order to avoid further litigation. It also insists that the delays were due to circumstances that were out of the airline’s hands.

A JAL Boeing 787-846
Japan Airlines object to the fact that the compensation was calculated on a per-passenger basis. Photo: Sergey Kustov

In response to the Department of Transport’s consent order, Japan Airlines says,

“since these events, it has taken additional steps to reinforce the requirements of the tarmac delay rule and ensure future compliance with those requirements.”

The airline also says that it has,

“recently conducted tarmac delay refresher training to ensure that its staff continues to be familiar with the tarmac delay requirements and applicable procedures.”

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