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Friday afternoon, the US Department of Transportation announced that it had fined four airlines for providing inaccurate information to passengers. The offending airlines — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest and United — were fined between $35,000-$45,000 each for:
…providing inaccurate information to passengers about how much compensation they could potentially receive for being denied boarding against their will, or “bumped” on oversold flights, and for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage.
In addition to the fines, each airline has been issued a “cease and desist” order by the DOT from making similar infractions. While the current fines are a mere slap on the wrist, the DOT could issue much larger fines if these airlines don’t clean up their act.
In the announcement, the DOT explained that airlines must immediately provide bumped passengers a written statement explaining their rights. In addition, each airline must provide this statement to anyone upon request at “all airport ticket selling positions, and at all boarding locations being used by the carrier.”
One or more of these airlines also failed to provide adequate disclosure regarding the DOT’s baggage liability requirements. These requirements force airlines to accept liability for no less than $3,500 in damages, and each airline must disclose its baggage liability policy on its tickets.
As the DOT bump and baggage regulations are quite involved — even the most experienced traveler probably doesn’t know these rules — we’re happy to see the Department of Transportation watching out for passengers by holding airlines accountable for following the rules.
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