DOT First Ever Enforcement Against Airline For Stranding Passengers





DOT First Ever Enforcement Against Airline For Stranding Passengers 

Daniel Guevarra
Continental Airlines

November 27, 2009 - DOT issued the first-ever enforcement orders against an airline for stranding passengers for an unreasonable amount of time. On August 7-8, 2009, Continental Flight 2816 was en route from Houston, Intercontinental Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on the evening of August 7th when it was redirected to Rochester International Airport due to severe weather. For nearly six hours, all passengers were forced to remain on the plane on the Rochester tarmac without food and in an increasingly uncomfortable cabin atmosphere, and were apparently denied the opportunity to deplane and enter the airport. 

In addition, the passengers had already been on the plane for more than two hours before the regional jet operating the Houston-to-Minneapolis St. Paul flight diverted to Rochester, Minneapolis.


This resulted in considerable inconvenience and discomfort for the 47 passengers on board.  This enforcement is meant to send a clear signal to the airline industry that the airlines must respect the rights of air travelers. The Aviation Enforcement Office (AEO) fined Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines $100,000 for their roles in keeping passengers on board Continental Express flight 2816 overnight at Rochester International Airport on August 8, 2009.

Continental will also provide a full refund to each passenger and also offer passengers additional compensation to materially acknowledge their discomfort. Mesaba Airlines was also fined for $75,000. Mesaba provided ground handling for the flight. 

?Look, this is just no way to treat passengers, customers, or anyone. You can't strand people overnight without access to the basics. It's not right; it's against the rules; and I am proud of the Department's Aviation Enforcement Office for its investigation into the complaints of these travelers and for its responsiveness. And I know we will use what we have learned from this investigation to strengthen protections for airline passengers subjected to long tarmac delays down the line? said Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation. 

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