American Airlines was ordered to pay a $4.1 million fine for allowing planes to remain on the ground for three hours or more without giving passengers a chance to leave, the largest such fine to date.

The U.S. Transportation Department said on Monday that the action was part of an increased enforcement effort that began last year after Secretary of State Pete Buttigieg began blaming airlines for long delays and canceled flights.

“This is the latest action in our ongoing effort to uphold the rights of airline passengers,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “Whether the issue is a serious delay on the tarmac or a refund issue, the Department of Transportation will continue to protect consumers and pursue The responsibility of the airline.”

U.S. law prohibits domestic flights from staying on the tarmac at an airport for more than three hours without pulling the plane back to the gate to let people off the plane. American Airlines violated the rules on 43 domestic flights between 2018 and 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. A total of 5,821 passengers were on board those flights, the agency said.

food, water

American Airlines said in an emailed statement that it has made improvements to its flight planning system to prevent planes from piling up at airports during extreme weather.

“American Airlines remains committed to providing a positive travel experience for our customers and takes our responsibility to comply with all DOT requirements very seriously,” the airline said.

Half of the fine ($2.05 million) will be used to compensate passengers on delayed flights, the Department of Transportation said.

Most of the delays occurred at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, one of American Airlines’ main hubs. On one of the 43 flights, passengers were not served food and water, which is required by law, the agency said.

Buttigieg has been an outspoken critic of the airline industry as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation began developing new rules to increase compensation for passengers for delays and cancellations caused by airlines. It also created a website to show consumers each airline’s consumer policies.

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