More than a dozen planes sat on the tarmac for more than three hours in June, the government said Tuesday. It's the second month in a row that the number of three-hour delays reached double digits since a government rule went into effect over a year ago aiming to limit them.
The Department of Transportation said 14 planes were stuck on the tarmac for over three hours in June. There were 16 such delays in May. There were only 20 in the full year before that. The rule threatening millions of dollars in fines for delays of three hours or more was implemented on April 29 of last year.
DOT hasn't fined an airline for violating the rule, because it says that none of the delays was serious enough to justify the big penalties. Nearly all of them were caused by bad weather.
The recent uptick in delays could draw fire from passenger rights advocates who first pushed for financial penalties. In June of 2009, there were 268 delays of more than three hours. By June of 2010, there were only three.
June is one of the busiest travel months of the year and it's also peak thunderstorm season.
Most of the delays this June were at Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles. The longest was an American Eagle flight from New York that was stuck on the tarmac for four hours. Most flights were stranded at their origin airport. Delayed Delta and AirTran flights were held up at airports that the planes were diverted to. Six of the flights were cancelled after their long delays.
The nation's 16 largest airlines operated more than a half-million flights in June. Flights overall during the month were on-time more often than a year ago, and there were fewer delays in June than in May. A flight is considered late if it pulls up to the gate more than 15 minutes behind schedule.
DOT said airlines complaints about lost or damaged baggage were down slightly from a year ago.