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Air China Fined $300K for Extensive Tarmac Delay

An Air China 777 sits on the ramp at Houston Intercontinental Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

On Feb. 10, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a fine of $300,000 to Air China due to the carrier’s extensive delay violation in 2018. Air China argued that the situation was caused by the chaotic management of New York’s JFK Airport under extreme weather conditions. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not make any comments regarding this particular punishment.

According to other media outlets, Air China reached an agreement with DOT to pay a $143,000 fine, and $14,000 will be used to compensate passengers involved in those incidents. Should Air China commit this violation again in the following year, the remaining $143,000 fine will need to be paid to DOT immediately from Air China.

Fines are made based on the extensive delay of Air China flight CA981 from Beijing to New York on Jan. 4, 2018. At the time, New York City was suffering from a historic blizzard. New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport was forced to shut down for almost four days.

Frustrating Delays

CA981 on Jan. 4, 2018, took off from Beijing six hours later than the scheduled time, however, when approaching JFK, the weather condition was not permitting the jet to land, so it diverted to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Passengers were forced to remain in the cabin for four hours due to O’Hare Airport’s limited capacity to process a massive wave of international flights diverted from New York and other east coast hubs.

Air China’s 777-300ER taxis at Dulles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Craig Fischer)

Over 24 hours after the CA981 arrived at O’Hare Airport, it finally took off for New York. After arriving at JFK, the airport was overwhelmed by the massive amount of flights, and the plane was left on the tarmac for six hours before passengers were able to get off.

At the same time, another flight that took off from Beijing to New York, CA989, was also deplaning after waiting for a gate on the taxiway of JFK for seven hours. The CA989 took off on Jan. 6, 2018, two days after the Jan 4 CA981 started its convoluted journey. However, the extensive tarmac delay of CA989 on Jan. 6 was not mentioned in the fine.

Another incident mentioned in the fine document was the CA982 flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Beijing on Nov 15, 2018. At the time, New York City was also facing a significant weather condition and was delayed for over five hours until the plane was able to de-ice and take off.

An Air China 747-8i at San Francisco International Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Never Ideal

For those two incidents, Air China blamed the poor management of JFK Airport under significant weather conditions and reassured the carrier’s respect towards the regulation of DOT. As Air China is only operating four regular passenger flights weekly out of the U.s. at the time of writing, and there are no signals of China releasing the international travel restrictions, the carrier will likely dodge the rest of the $143,000 fine.

Air China recently reported a huge loss of up to $2.5 billion during 2021, even worse than the loss during 2020. The fine will put another red line on Air China’s balance sheet, even as the airline struggles to break even.

Lei Yan


  • Lei Yan

    Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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