The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined JetBlue Airways $50,000 for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.
“When passengers shop for an airline ticket, they have a right to know the full price they will have to pay,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We expect airlines to treat their passengers fairly and will take enforcement action when our rules are violated.”
The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that for a period of time in early 2011, JetBlue displayed fare advertisements on several websites that did not provide any information on additional taxes and fees. Consumers clicking on the advertisements were taken to a page where a list of routes and prices were displayed, along with a statement that taxes and fees would be added to the fare. However, the statement was not a link, and consumers had to scroll to the bottom of the page or click a link next to each of the listed fares to see, listed in fine print, the amount of the additional taxes and fees they would have to pay.
JetBlue’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. The only exception currently allowed is government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, which may be stated separately from the advertised fare but must be clearly disclosed in the advertisement so that passengers can easily determine the full price they must pay. Internet fare listings may disclose these separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees are extra, and the link must take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees are displayed.
Under DOT’s recently adopted consumer rule that enhances protections for air travelers, carriers will be required, among other things, to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare beginning Jan. 24, 2012.