AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines, was fined $60,000 today for violating federal aviation laws and the Department of Transportation's rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.
DOT rules require that ads include a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including carrier-imposed surcharges.
Currently, Internet fare listings may disclose taxes and fees separately, but through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees are extra, and the link must take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees are displayed.
In the fall of 2011, AirTran had an ad on a number of websites for $59 one-way fares. The ad did note that additional taxes, fees and exclusions would apply, but with no information on the amount of taxes or fees. According to the DOT, a consumer clicking on the advertisement was taken to a page on AirTran’s website where a list of routes and prices were displayed. Consumers were not provided details about the taxes and fees until they scrolled to the bottom of the page where the information appeared in fine print.
Starting January 26, new rules will require airlines and other ticket sellers to disclose all fees associated with the price of a ticket upfront, so that consumers know what the final cost of a ticket will be at the beginning, not the end, of the purchasing process. Originally supposed to go into effect along with other regulations earlier this year, the regulations were delayed because airlines said they would need more time to comply.
“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying when they buy an airline ticket,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to take enforcement action when our airline price advertising rules are violated.”
DOT Fines AirTran [Travel Agent Central]