Frontier Airlines fined for long delays, refusing to let passengers deplane


WASHINGTON -- Denver based Frontier Airlines has been fined $1.5 million for violating the Department of Transportation's rule prohibiting long tarmac delays.

According to the Department of Transportation, the airline has been ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.

In a statement to FOX31, the Department of Transportation said, "Of the $1.5 million assessed, $900,000 will be credited to Frontier for compensation provided to passengers on the affected flights and also passengers on other delayed flights.  The $1.5 million fine represents the second highest amount assessed against an airline for violating the tarmac delay rule, following $1.6 million fines assessed against American Airlines in 2016 and Southwest Airlines in 2015."

The fine was handed down after an investigation found that on December 16 -18, 2016, Frontier allowed 12 flights at Denver International Airport to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours, without letting passenger deplane.

These delays were part of the large snowstorm that affected Denver and operations at the airport.

The statement goes on to say, "Under DOT rules, U.S. airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane.  Exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.  The rules also require airlines to provide adequate food and water, ensure that lavatories are working and, if necessary, provide medical attention to passengers during long tarmac delays.  U.S. airlines are also required to have adequate resources to implement their tarmac delay contingency plans, such as having sufficient staff to accommodate flights during irregular operations."

We talked to passengers involved in the December debacle. They are happy DOT decided to fine the airline.

"I think it’s about time," one of the stranded passengers Jeffrey Scott said. "The entire cabin was chanting let us out of here, just kept captive for hours.

This is not the first time the airline has made headlines. ​In November, there was a flight attendant protest over contracts. December is when the snow storm hit. A discrimination complaint was filed in May because flight attendants couldn't breast feed at work. Then in July, the company was fined for bumping passengers off flights and accommodating disabled guests.

​“Hearing that there’s something it makes me feel better,” another passenger Antoaneta Minchahev said.

"I think fines are a start, however this feels very criminal to me," Scott said. "I absolutely felt like we were held hostage ."

A statement issued by Frontier blamed the delays on "operational challenges," saying, "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."