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German Airline Fined $225,000 After Police Had to Free Passengers From Flight in Florida

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

The US Department of Transportation has decided to fine German carrier Eurowings $225,000 for an incident that occurred four years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At their heart, transatlantic flights are already terrible experiences. Travelers in the economy must spend at least one-third of their day sitting shoulder to shoulder. Imagine flying across the ocean and being trapped on the plane for an extra five and a half hours as it waited on the tarmac.

Eurowings Flight EW1182 flew from Düsseldorf Airport in Germany to Miami International Airport in July 2019. The Eurowings Aircraft A330 was forced to detour to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport due to a weather-related closure. The A330 landed at 5:14 p.m. local time and parked at a remote stand after spending 10 hours flying and 30 minutes holding in hopes of landing in Miami.

The Eurowings flight crew asked that the passengers be deplaned and transported to the terminal by bus, but they were unable to do so due to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) restrictions. If the passengers were to deplane, CBP demanded that checked luggage be offloaded, but there were no ground handlers available to dump the bags. The passengers were confined on the plane.

Ground handlers were eventually available two hours later. The Eurowings flight crew, however, refused to deplane the passengers and instead requested to fly to Miami. The Airbus A330 remained on the tarmac for three and a half hours longer before Eurowings was told that Miami International Airport was still closed because of bad weather.

Passengers became unhappy with the situation and summoned local police. The flight’s 268 passengers ultimately deplaned at 10:50 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale, with the aid of authorities.

In response to the US Department of Transportation’s fine this week, Eurowings argued that it did not run regularly scheduled services out of Fort Lauderdale, only diverted there as a last option, and lacked the requisite services for the trip in the issue. The German airline believes that the tarmac delay was caused by causes beyond its control and that the fine should be waived.

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