U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) urged Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza to end the airline’s "'deliberate attempt to deceive the flying public" about the effects of a new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that improves the transparency of airfares.
Joining the protests of the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency, Senator Boxer called attention to a email Spirit sent its customers this week as well as the claim on the airline’s website that “New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.”
"In fact, the new Department of Transportation rule requires that all mandatory taxes and fees be disclosed to customers and be included in the fares that airlines advertise to the public. Some airlines, in contrast to Spirit, have used their websites to help explain how this new rule will benefit customers," Boxer said in a statement, noting the actions of airline passengers’ advocacy groups like the Business Travel Coalition.
Boxer's statement noted that In November, the DOT fined Spirit for violating federal aviation laws and DOT rules prohibiting deceptive advertising in air travel. "When it launched service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Spirit used billboards and hand-held posters to advertise fares of $9 each way without disclosing the cost of additional taxes and fees that would be incurred. Similarly, the airline used Twitter to promote the $9 fares but required travelers to visit two separate web pages to determine the amount of the taxes and fees," Boxer noted.
In her letter, Senator Boxer wrote, “I have been shocked by the failure of your airline to tell the truth in an email sent to your customers earlier this week as well as in warnings posted on Spirit.com that read, ‘New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
"What the rule says is that you have to tell your customers the full cost of a ticket. It prohibits Spirit or any other airline from advertising fares “that exclude taxes, fees or other charges since the major impact of such presentations is to confuse and deceive consumers,” the Boxer letter to Spirit said. "And despite Spirit’s claim that the airline must now hide relevant information, the rule “allows carriers to advise the public in their fare solicitations about government taxes and fees…”
'Today’s consumers are faced with many options when planning air travel and being able to compare the full price before purchase is both necessary and fair. Your recent statement that “the better form of transparency is to break out costs so that consumers know exactly what they are buying” is exactly what this new DOT rule will help do, " the Boxer letter said.