DOT Fines Three Airlines for Violating Airline Consumer Protection Rules
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined Royal Jordanian Airlines, EgyptAir, and Royal Air Maroc for violating the Department’s expanded airline passenger protection rules that took effect in January.
Royal Jordanian Airlines violated the rule on full-fare advertising and the rule requiring the disclosure of fees for baggage and was assessed a civil penalty of $70,000. EgyptAir violated rules requiring the disclosure of fees for baggage and the inclusion of assurances in its customer service plan allowing consumers to cancel a reservation without penalty for 24 hours after they book a flight and was assessed a civil penalty of $60,000. Royal Air Maroc violated the rule requiring the disclosure of fees for baggage and was assessed a civil penalty of $60,000. Each carrier was also ordered to cease and desist from further violations. The Department discovered the violations during its ongoing review of carrier websites to ensure compliance with its consumer protection rules.
“Airline passengers deserve to be treated fairly when they fly, and that means knowing the full price of their trip, including charges for checking baggage, as well as being given the opportunity to cancel a reservation without penalty for 24 hours after booking,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
DOT requires all advertisements that include airfares to state the entire price to be paid by the consumer. Prior to a provision of the rule that took effect Jan. 26, advertised fares were not required to include certain government-imposed taxes as long as these additional charges were clearly disclosed in the ad. Under the new rule, all government taxes and fees must be incorporated into the fare. The rule applies to both U.S. and foreign airlines as well as ticket agents.
Airfare searches made by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office on Royal Jordanian’s website after Jan. 26 resulted in separate listings of base fares for outbound and inbound legs that did not include additional government taxes and fees. By failing to advertise the entire price of the flight when fares were first stated, the airline violated the full-fare advertising rule.
Under a separate provision of DOT’s new rule that took effect on Jan. 24, carriers must disclose to consumers booking a flight that they may have to pay baggage fees in addition to the basic ticket price. When consumers book a flight on-line, carriers must clearly and prominently disclose on the first screen that offers a specific itinerary that additional baggage fees may apply and tell the consumer where they can view the fees. The rule applies to all airlines selling air transportation in the United States, including foreign carriers.
Airfare searches on Royal Jordanian’s website made by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office after April 11 found that the airline failed to disclose on the first screen in which it offered a fare quotation for a specific itinerary that additional airline fees for baggage may apply and where consumers could see those fees. Searches made on EgyptAir’s website after Jan. 24 found that the airline also failed to make this disclosure and instead referred customers to the airline’s baggage overview pages for more information without clearly indicating whether additional baggage fees would apply to the fares displayed.
A review of Royal Air Maroc’s website after Jan. 24 found that it contained a menu option which linked to the airline’s baggage fee policies, but that there was no reference to these policies on the website’s first screen in which a fare quotation for a specific itinerary was offered. The placement of the baggage fee policies did not make it clear whether additional baggage fees might apply to the fares displayed and therefore was not sufficient to comply with the requirement of the rule.
DOT requires carriers to include a commitment in their customer service plans allowing customers’ reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least twenty-four hours after the reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure.
A review of EgyptAir’s website after Jan. 24, found that the airline failed to include this commitment in the contents of its plans.
The consent orders are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.