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Starting Thursday, airlines face fines for long tarmac waits

On a rainy winter day shortly after Christmas three years ago, Kate Hanni sat on an American Airlines Inc. jet diverted to Austin. And sat. And sat.The airplane remained parked near the airport gates for hours, but no one could get off. As the hours passed, her impatience grew into anger and outrage – and eventually into a consumer movement.

On Thursday, the results of that massive schedule disruption on Dec. 29, 2006, will go into effect.

Airlines must begin following a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that threatens fines of up to $27,500 a passenger – more than $3.7 million on the jet Hanni was stranded on – if the carriers don't let the customers get off after three hours.

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