USA: DOT fines Spirit Airlines for deceptive price advertising

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Spirit Airlines USD 50,000 for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.

For a period of time in June 2011, Spirit used billboards and hand-held posters to advertise new service from Los Angeles that contained an asterisk next to the advertised fare.  On the billboards, the asterisk led to small print which stated that additional taxes, fees and conditions would apply, but did not disclose the amount of those taxes and fees.  The posters did not include any information about the taxes and fees or their amounts. 

In addition, Spirit sent Twitter feeds announcing USD 9 each-way fares.  A consumer who clicked on the link that was provided was taken to a page on Spirit’s website where the carrier disclosed for the first time that these fares did not include all taxes and fees, and that they were subject to a roundtrip purchase requirement.  Only after clicking on a second link, which took readers to the bottom of the page, was the amount of additional taxes and fees disclosed. 

Source: DOT press release DOT 152-11 of Nov. 21, 2011

The consent order is available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0003

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