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DOT Fines Two Companies for Violations of Air Charter Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation today fined two companies for violating the Department’s rules governing charter flights.  Aviation Advantage, Inc. (AAI) was assessed a civil penalty of  $150,000 and Swift Air, LLC was assessed a civil penalty of $100,000.

“Air travelers using charter services have rights, just as those using scheduled airlines do,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “We will take enforcement action if our rules protecting the rights of charter passengers are violated.”

The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that AAI, a public charter operator, advertised flights in 2009 without listing the name of the charter operator or the airline operating the flights, as required by DOT rules.  The advertisements also violated DOT regulations by failing to disclose that passengers would have to sign an operator-participant contract.  Also, in 2010, AAI sold tickets for public charter flights and operated the flights without obtaining necessary authority from the Department.  The company also violated DOT rules by using Capital Airways, an aircraft operator that did not hold the required commercial license, for a number charter flights in 2010.  The Department fined Capital Airways $175,000 in January for operating and marketing charter flights without required authority.

The Department fined Swift Air for cancelling a public charter flight on June 17, 2011, minutes before its scheduled departure.  Under the Department’s rules, a charter operator may not cancel a public charter flight less than 10 days before scheduled departure unless it is physically impossible to operate the flight.  The carrier had been aware for nearly a month of compliance concerns raised by the Federal Aviation Administration and should have known it might not be able to operate the flight, the Department found.  The entire charter program was canceled, affecting hundreds of consumers’ plans. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011