The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assessed a civil penalty of $80,000 against Alitalia for violating an international treaty by limiting reimbursement to passengers whose baggage was lost or delayed on Alitalia flights to and from the United States. The DOT also fined Asiana Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel. Asiana was fined $70,000 and LOT $60,000.
Alitalia’s policy violated a provision of the Montreal Convention, an international agreement setting rules for international air travel, DOT said. The agreement says that carriers may not limit their liability for loss or damage to checked baggage to less than approximately $1,700 per person, an amount that fluctuates based on currency conversion rates.
“Airline passengers have rights, including the right to know the full fare they will have to pay when they book a flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in reference to the fines against Asiana Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines. “We adopted our airline price advertising rules to protect consumers from deceptive ads and will continue to take enforcement actions."
During the fall of 2011, both carriers displayed ads on their websites that violated DOT’s rules, DOT said. Asiana’s ads showed fares for various routes, with a link indicating that taxes, fees, and other restrictions could apply. The link took consumers to a page where taxes and fees were described in fine print at the bottom of the page, which was on a different screen. One of these additional fees was a fuel surcharge imposed by the carrier.
LOT displayed ads that did not provide any information about additional taxes and fees, DOT said. Consumers who clicked on the fare were taken to a page containing sample routes and fares, as well as fine print explaining the type of taxes and fees on a separate screen reached only after scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Under DOT’s recently adopted consumer rule that enhances protections for air travelers, carriers and ticket agents will be required to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare beginning Jan. 26, 2012, DOT said.