The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in its continuing effort to protect airline consumers, today assessed civil penalties against Continental Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and US Airways for violating DOT consumer regulations.
“At the Department of Transportation we take the rights of airline passengers seriously, and we will take enforcement action when airlines violate our consumer protection rules,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The Department found that Hawaiian and US Airways failed to disclose to consumers when flights sold by the carriers were being operated under a code-sharing arrangement, under which a carrier will sell tickets on flights that use its designator code but are operated by a separate airline. DOT rules require airlines to disclose to consumers, before they book a flight, if the flight is operated under a code-sharing arrangement. The disclosure must include the corporate name of the transporting carrier and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.
The Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings recently made a number of telephone calls to both Hawaiian’s and US Airways’ reservations lines to determine if the carriers’ employees were advising consumers of code-sharing arrangements as required by the regulations. The Enforcement Office found that both carriers’ reservations agents failed to disclose code-sharing during a substantial number of those calls. Hawaiian was assessed a civil penalty of $50,000, and US Airways was assessed a $70,000 penalty.
Continental was assessed a civil penalty of $75,000 for violating the Department’s requirement that airfare ads must state the full price to be paid by the consumer. The carrier for a time advertised fares on its website that did not contain a notice of additional taxes or government fees at the first point at which fares were displayed or provide a link that would take customers to a page that would contain the notice. The notice of taxes and fees was provided only on a subsequent page. In addition, Continental listed numerous fares that were advertised as being “each way” or “one-way” fares without clearly disclosing, as required by DOT, that the fares were available only for a round-trip purchase.
The consent orders are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2009-0001.