Fined For Violating DOTís New Price Advertising Rule
By Eddy Metcalf
February 18, 2012 - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Allegiant Air $100,000 for violating DOTís new advertising rule, which became effective on January 26, which requires carriers and ticket agents to show the total price, including all government taxes and fees, in every advertised fare. In addition, Allegiant Air violated DOTís rules protecting air travelers with disabilities.
ďWe adopted our rules on reporting of disability
complaints and advertising of airfares to protect
consumers,Ē said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood. ďProtecting the rights of airline passengers is
a high priority for DOT, and we will take enforcement
action when our rules are violated.Ē
Under DOTís rule, carriers must sort disability-related complaints into categories based on the type of disability and nature of the complaint and submit an annual report to the Department on disability complaints received the previous year. Each issue raised in a complaint must be recorded separately to account for the total number of complaints a carrier receives.
Department compiles carrier reports, publishes them on the
Internet for consumers to compare, and submits them to Congress
as required by law.
In addition, if an airline receives a written complaint alleging
a violation of the Departmentís disability rules, the carrier
must provide a written response within 30 days that specifically
discusses the complaint, gives the carrierís view of whether a
violation occurred, and states that the complaint may be
referred to DOT for an investigation.
Departmentís Aviation Enforcement Office reviewed a sample of
the disability-related complaints that Allegiant received
directly from passengers in 2009 and 2010, as well as disability
complaints against Allegiant that the Department received
directly from passengers during 2009 and 2010.
Department found that in a number of instances, Allegiant
responded to the complaints through a telephone call rather than
in writing as required by the rule, and that the carrier both
failed to record all of the disability complaints it received
and to properly categorize and account for all the issues that
were raised in the complaints.
In addition, the Enforcement Office found that Allegiant violated DOTís price advertising rule by posting offers on its homepage for free flights to Las Vegas and Tampa Bay, Fla. The banner for the Las Vegas ads did not indicate that taxes and fees would be extra.
asterisk appeared after the words ďFly Free,Ē there was no information
on taxes and fees on the page where the asterisk appeared, and there was
no hyperlink that took consumers to a description of required taxes and
fees. Instead, once
consumers clicked on the link, they were taken to a page where they
could see the amount of taxes and fees only after scrolling to the
bottom of the page.
For the Las Vegas
and Tampa ads, Allegiant also failed to include its fee of $14.99 for
tickets purchased anywhere except at one of the carrierís airport ticket
offices in the initial fare quote provided on the website as required by
These ads violated the Departmentís rule requiring ads for airfares to identify the existence and amount of government-imposed taxes and fees at the first point a fare is displayed and to include in the initial fare quotes appearing on the website all carrier-imposed fees that passengers must pay to make on-line bookings.
Until Jan. 26,
2012, government-imposed taxes and fees assessed on a per-passenger
basis, such as passenger facility charges, could be stated separately
from the advertised fare but had to be clearly disclosed in the
advertisement so that passengers could easily determine the full price
to be paid.
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