US Aviation news: Tarmac delays fell 86% as new rule took effect


U.S. airline flights stuck for at least three hours on airport tarmacs fell 86 percent in May, the first full month of a rule that subjects carriers to fines for such delays.

Five flights were delayed in May, down from 35 in the same month a year earlier, the second-lowest total since the Transportation Department began collecting data on the delays in October 2008, according to a report on the agency’s website.

A rule pushed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that took effect April 29 imposes fines as high as $27,500 for each customer when an airline fails to free passengers after three hours on an aircraft. The rule applies to domestic flights.

Four of the five May delays, including an almost five-hour wait that was the longest, were on United Airlines flights bound for Denver that were diverted to Colorado Springs, Colorado, on May 26, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics report. Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the UAL Corp. unit, said she was checking on circumstances of those delays.

Denver flights were hindered by thunderstorms and low ceilings on May 26, according to, which tracks flight movements.

A Delta Air Lines Inc. flight from Atlanta to Dallas was delayed more than three hours on May 28, according to the report posted on the agency’s website.

A Transportation Department spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a question on enforcement of the three-hour rule for the five reported delays.

U.S. carriers posted a 79.9 percent on-time rate in May, down from last year’s 80.5 percent, according to the Transportation Department report on scheduled flights.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had the best on-time performance in May, at 88.9 percent, while San Francisco International Airport had 72.5 percent on time, the worst among the 29 busiest airports, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said in the report.