Two Airlines Fined For False Fare Advertising

If those $39 air fares sounded too good to be true, you were right.

The Department of Transportation announced on Friday that it had fined AirTran and Delta airlines for misleading, false advertising. AirTran was fined $20,000 and Delta $40,000.

“Our fare advertising rules are designed to ensure that consumers know how much they will pay for a ticket when they shop for air travel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We expect airlines to comply with our rules and will continue to take enforcement action when necessary.”

According to the DOT, the action against Air Tran resulted from it advertising a fare that was not available. On Feb. 16, 2010, AirTran posted a press release on its website advertising its “Leave the Blizzard Behind Sale.” The sale lasted for 72 hours and applied for travel on AirTran before May 26, 2010. The press release advertised fares “starting as low as $39” one-way.” However, an investigation by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office revealed that there were no seats available for $39 as part of the sale and that the lowest available fare for the sale was $44.

The action against Delta involved the carrier’s failure to provide adequate notice of taxes and fees that were not included in certain base fares at the first point they were advertised on its website. The only charges that airlines may list separately from the base fare are government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges and international departure taxes.

On Internet displays, airlines may prominently note that taxes and fees are extra, with that statement being a link that takes a consumer directly to a description of the nature and amount of those charges. However, on some of Delta’s Internet displays, the statement that taxes and fees were extra was not a link and the link the carrier provided failed to refer consumers directly to a statement that did provide the required information on the additional taxes and fees.

Nice to see the government protecting consumers.

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