The Transportation Department for the first time has levied a fine on airlines deemed responsible for a lengthy tarmac delay. The precedent-setting fines, totaling $175,000, stemmed from an Aug. 8 incident in which 47 passengers were stranded overnight on the tarmac in Rochester, Minn. "I hope that this sends a signal to the rest of the airline industry that we expect airlines to respect the rights of air travelers," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in announcing the action. Continental Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Mesaba Airlines agreed to pay the fines, though all three carriers insisted they did not violate any laws.

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