US fines American Airlines for keeping passengers on tarmac


The United States Transportation Department (USDOT) on Monday fined American Airlines (AAL.O) $4.1 million for unlawfully keeping thousands of passengers on the tarmac for hours, the largest-ever penalty for violating the rule.

Of the $4.1 million assessed, $2.05 million will be credited to the airline for compensation provided to passengers of impacted flights.

USDOT said an extensive investigation by its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection found that between 2018 and 2021, American allowed 43 domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for lengthy periods without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane in violation of the department's tarmac delay rule.

On one of the 43 flights, passengers were not provided with food and water as required. Most delays occurred at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. The tarmac delays affected a total of 5,821 passengers.

“This is the latest action in our continued drive to enforce the rights of airline passengers,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Whether the issue is extreme tarmac delays or problems getting refunds, DOT will continue to protect consumers and hold airlines accountable.”

American told USDOT these delays were the result of exceptional weather events, and that the flights represented less than 0.001% of the approximately 7.7 million flights operated by American and its regional partners during the period of 2018 to 2021.

"We have since apologized to the impacted customers and regret any inconvenience caused," the airline said on Monday.

The airline said it has committed "substantial time and resources to improve its performance on tarmac delays."

While accepting this compromise settlement "America respectfully disagrees that certain of these tarmac delays warrant enforcement action under the extreme

circumstances presented," it added.

In 2016, USDOT fined American Airlines a then record-matching $1.6 million after it found the carrier had allowed a number of domestic flights to remain on the tarmac without allowing passengers an opportunity to get off the plane.

USDOT in January said it planned to seek higher penalties from airlines and others that broke consumer protection rules, saying they were necessary to deter future violations.

The department has fined numerous airlines in recent years, including a $135,000 penalty on British Airways over a 2017 tarmac delay in which it failed to ensure the timely deplaning of passengers.

A U.S. appeals court has revived claims that McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) violated federal antitrust law by requiring franchisees to agree not to hire away each other's employees.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday said the judge who dismissed the proposed nationwide class action last year failed to properly analyze the so-called "no-poaching" agreements.

The judge had found that the agreements were valid because they protected franchisees' investments in training workers.

But the 7th Circuit on Friday said the judge must look more closely at whether the agreements needed to cover the entire country and last for six months after workers left their jobs.

Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote that those questions "can’t be answered by observing that any given franchise contract, viewed by itself, expands the output of food."

McDonald's and lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Two former McDonald's workers were appealing a 2022 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago dismissing claims the agreements stifled competition and depressed their wages.

The agreements barred franchisees from hiring people who worked at other franchises or corporate stores anywhere in the United States for six months after they left their jobs.

McDonald's in court filings has said it stopped requiring franchisees to sign no-poach agreements in 2017. Several other major fast-food companies have taken the same step in recent years in response to probes by states.

The plaintiffs were backed in their appeal by the Biden administration and the Democratic attorneys general of 20 states and Washington, D.C., who said in court briefs that McDonald's agreements illegally suppressed workers' wages.

The 7th Circuit on Friday also said the district court judge should rethink his ruling declining to certify a nationwide class in the lawsuit. McDonald's has said the class could include millions of workers.

TODAY IS THE 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It’s obviously most famous for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The best-known part of that speech is King’s words expressing hope that his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In a sense, it’s understandable that one of the greatest works of oratory in American history has overshadowed the rest of the day. Everyone remembers Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word address at Gettysburg. But we don’t talk much about the preceding speech that day by the politician Edward Everett, which was almost 14,000 words long. Honestly, that is too much freedom.

Nevertheless, it’s striking how much the “jobs” part of the March on Washington has dropped out of memory — because that was absolutely core to the message the marchers wanted the rest of the country to hear.

Start with the day’s program, which included a 10-point section called “What We Demand.” Number one is “comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation” that guarantees not just the right to vote, but also “decent housing.”

Number seven is “a massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers — Negro and white — on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.”

Number eight is “a national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this.)” At the time, the minimum wage was $1.15, or the equivalent today, adjusted for inflation, of $11.45. $2.00 an hour would now be about $20. The actual federal minimum wage today is $7.25

Even more succinctly, one of the most popular placards carried by marchers read, “Civil rights plus full employment equals freedom.”

King himself paired economics with civil rights. One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, he said, “The life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

John Lewis, who was then chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, spoke before King. He began by saying:

All over this nation, the Black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of. Hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here, for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all. While we stand here, there are sharecroppers in the Delta of Mississippi who are out in the fields working for less than three dollars a day, 12 hours a day.

He went on to explain that while the march supported the Kennedy administration’s proposed civil rights bill, it was insufficient. “We need,” he stated, “a bill that will provide for the homeless and starving people of this nation.”

Right after Lewis came Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers. In his speech, he referenced the low rates of unemployment during World War II and told the crowd:

If we can have full employment, and full production for the negative ends of war, then why can’t we have a job for every American in the pursuit of peace? And so our slogan has got to be fair employment, but fair employment within the framework of full employment, so that every American can have a job.

But the most powerful case was made by A. Philip Randolph, the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and one of the key organizers of the march. It’s well worth reading what he said because Randolph addressed head-on the most profound questions of American society:

We have no future in a society in which six million Black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. … Yes, we want a fair employment practice act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers, Black and white?

The sanctity of private property takes second place to the sanctity of the human personality. It falls to the Negro to reassert this proper priority of values, because our ancestors were transformed from human personalities into private property. It falls to us to demand new forms of social planning, to create full employment, and to put automation at the service of human needs, not at the service of profits …

The March on Washington is not the climax of our struggle, but a new beginning, not only for the Negro, but for all Americans who thirst for freedom and a better life. Look for the enemies of Medicare, of higher minimum wages, of Social Security, of federal aid to education and there you will find the enemy of the Negro, the coalition of Dixiecrats and reactionary Republicans that seek to dominate the Congress.

So once you understand the core purpose of the March on Washington, it’s clear that its dream remains, at best, half fulfilled. While segregation and discrimination still exist, they at least have been formally dismantled. But in economic terms, we have, if anything, gone backward. The federal minimum wage is less in real terms than it was in 1963. The idea of a federal jobs guarantee is barely even discussed. The chair of the Federal Reserve talks openly about the need to decrease the number of available jobs.

Four days after King was assassinated in 1968, his widow Coretta Scott King delivered a speech in which she said, “Now we are at a point where we must have economic power. … We are concerned about not only the Negro poor, but the poor all over America … Every man deserves a right to a job or an income so that he can pursue liberty, life, and happiness.”

If the marchers 60 years ago were correct, this agenda will have to be recovered if African Americans, and Americans in general, are going reach genuine freedom.

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