The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined the Brazilian airline GOL $250,000 for violating a number of DOT’s rules protecting the rights of air travelers. This is the largest penalty assessed for violations of the rules adopted in April 2011.
The airline was ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the Department’s airline consumer rules.
“We adopted these rules to ensure that passengers are treated with respect when they buy a ticket or board a plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will not tolerate disregard of our rules and will take enforcement action when necessary to protect travelers.”
The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that GOL’s U.S. website, for a period of time after it was launched in November 2012, failed to include a variety of information and features required by DOT air travel consumer protection rules. The website did not include a contingency plan for handling lengthy tarmac delays or a link from the homepage to a list of fees for baggage and other optional services.
GOL also violated DOT’s full-fare advertising requirement by failing to include taxes and fees in fares displayed on the website in response to consumer searches. The full fare, including taxes and fees, was available only after the consumer selected a specific itinerary.
The airline also failed to post its contract of carriage in an easily accessible form on its website. A consumer had to begin the process of searching for an itinerary before being able to gain access to the contract information. This made it hard to easily compare GOL’s contract with those of other airlines, and made obtaining the contract difficult for passengers who wanted to review the information online before booking a flight by telephone or with a ticket agent.
GOL also failed to include on its website required information on how consumers can file a complaint with the airline.
Today’s consent order is available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2013-0004.
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