DOT fines Southwest $200,000 for fare ad violations

DOT fines Southwest $200,000 for fare ad violations

DOT fines Southwest $200,000 for fare ad violations

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USA Today and WFAA

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Updated Thursday, May 29 at 3:02 PM

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said Thursday that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has been fined $200,000 for violating the full-fare advertising rule.

DOT says Southwest Airlines advertised on TV in Atlanta last October that flights to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles were only $59 on some dates.

The DOT says an investigation by its Aviation Enforcement Office concluded "Southwest did not have any seats available for $59 between Atlanta and any of the three quoted cities on any of the applicable travel dates."

"DOT’s full-fare advertising rules were put into place to ensure that consumers are not deceived when they search for plane tickets,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Consumers have rights, and DOT will continue to take enforcement action against carriers and ticket agents when our price advertising rules are violated.”

Southwest released the following statement on Thursday:

"The DOT fine is related to an October 2013 fare sale in the Atlanta market that was supported by television ads offering fares starting at $59 one-way. Unfortunately, the audio portion of the TV advertisement incorrectly stated three cities that were never intended to be a part of the $59 sale (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago). As soon as we became aware of our mistake, we pulled all incorrect advertisements off the air.  

Despite our error, the city pairs that were included in the intended sale provided significant savings to consumers in Atlanta and across the country – with more than 300,000 consumers saving millions of dollars. Southwest provides Customers more discounted seats than any other airline in the U.S. In fact, in 2013 the airline ran 63 separate fare sales - averaging one fare sale a week." 

Brandy King with the airline also noted in an e-mail to News 8 that calls reserving $59 tickets were honored at the time. 

Southwest was targeted by the DOT on July 30, 2013, on similar allegations resulting from another sale fare. In that case, the DOT said Southwest did make enough seats available at promotional prices it advertised during two 2013 sales.

Because of the previous case, the DOT is requiring Southwest to pay $100,000 in fines that had been suspended for its previous action against the low-cost carrier.

"By violating the same regulation again within one year, Southwest also violated the cease and desist provision of the order issued in 2013, and was immediately required to pay $100,000, half of the original civil penalty which was suspended from the previous order," the DOT says.

The latest Southwest fine comes as the DOT has become increasingly aggressive in enforcing its consumer protection rules in recent years.

Among other recent DOT fines:

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