The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for violating the DOT's full-fare advertising rules and ordered the carrier to cease and desist from further violations.
By violating the full-fare advertising rule in this case, Southwest Airlines also violated the cease and desist provision of a previous order. In doing so, the carrier was required to pay an additional $100,000, which was suspended from an order issued in July 2013, DOT said.
“DOT’s full-fare advertising rules were put into place to ensure that consumers are not deceived when they search for plane tickets,” DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “Consumers have rights, and DOT will continue to take enforcement action against carriers and ticket agents when our price advertising rules are violated.”
In October 2013, Southwest ran a television advertisement on eight networks in the Atlanta area advertising $59 sale fares to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago on certain dates, DOT said. An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office revealed that Southwest did not have any seats available for $59 between Atlanta and any of the three quoted cities on any of the applicable travel dates.
By advertising fares for which no seats were available at all, Southwest violated the full fare advertising rule and engaged in prohibited unfair and deceptive practices.
Federal regulation, which requires that any advertisement or solicitation for air transportation that states a price for such transportation state the entire price to be paid, DOT said. In both cases, Southwest advertised fares for which there were not a reasonable number of seats available.