DOT Fines Agent and Qantas

Ticket agent Unister USA, also known as Flights24.com, was  fined $30,000 for violating the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) rules on fare advertising and disclosure of code-share flights. In a separate action the DOT assessed a civil penalty of $40,000 against Qantas Airways for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.

“Protecting the rights of air travelers is a priority for DOT,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of the action against Unister.  “We will continue our work to make sure that airlines and ticket agents treat consumers fairly when they fly.”



An investigation by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that, from at least July 2011 through October 2011, ads on Unister’s website failed to disclose at the first point fares were displayed that additional taxes and fees would be imposed, including Unister’s service fee.

Unister’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, DOT  said. Until Jan. 26, 2012, only 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 they 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 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, DOT said. 

The Enforcement Office also found that Unister violated the Department’s code-share disclosure rule. Under code-sharing, an airline will sell tickets on flights that use its designator code, but are operated by a separate airline. DOT requires airlines and ticket agents to inform consumers, before they book a flight, if the flight is operated under a code-share arrangement, as well as disclose the corporate name of the transporting carrier and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.

From at least July through September 2011, Unister failed to disclose the name of the carrier providing the transportation when advertising code-share flights on its website,  DOT said.

The civil penalty of $40,000 against Qantas Airways, was for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.

“Ensuring that travelers know the full cost of their airline tickets before they buy them is just one way that DOT is continuing to protect consumers’ rights,” LaHood said. “Passengers deserve fair and honest treatment when they fly, and DOT’s passenger protections will help ensure that they receive that treatment before, during, and after their flights.”

Qantas’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. 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.

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, DOT said.

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 said.

Visit www.dot.gov

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