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DOT Fines Finnair and SpiritJanuary 30, 2012 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Finnair $35,000 for violating the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel and fined Spirit Airlines $100,000 for failing to appropriately record and respond to complaints about the carrier’s treatment of passengers with disabilities.
Finnair’s website violated DOT rules requiring any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges, the DOT said.
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, DOT said.
Internet fare listings were permitted to disclose these separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees were extra, and the link had to take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees were displayed.
Under DOT’s recently adopted consumer rule that enhances protections for air travelers, carriers and ticket agents have been required to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare since Jan. 26. DOT’s airline price advertising rules apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers as well as ticket agents.
The DOT's fine against Spirit is based on the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office's inspection at Spirit’s corporate headquarters in Miramar, Fla., during which it reviewed disability-related complaints received by Spirit in calendar year 2009. The Enforcement Office later reviewed disability complaints received by the carrier in calendar year 2010. The review showed that Spirit violated the Department’s rules by failing to adequately categorize and account for all the disability-related issues that were raised in complaints received during 2009. This led to an undercounting of the actual number of complaints in the carrier’s annual report to DOT, the Department said.