The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty of $40,000 against Qantas Airways, a carrier based in Australia, for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel.
“Ensuring that travelers know the full cost of their airline tickets before they buy them is just one way that DOT is continuing to protect consumers’ rights,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Passengers deserve fair and honest treatment when they fly, and DOT’s passenger protections will help ensure that they receive that treatment before, during, and after their flights.”
For a period of time in the fall of last year, Qantas displayed advertisements on numerous websites that did not provide any information on additional taxes and fees. Even after consumers clicking on the advertised fare were taken to a page on the carrier’s website where sample routes and prices were displayed, the type and amounts of additional taxes and fees could be seen only if a consumer scrolled to the bottom of the page.
Qantas’s website violated DOT rules requiring any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges. Until Jan. 26, 2012, government-imposed taxes and fees assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, could be stated separately from the advertised fare but had to be clearly disclosed in the advertisement so that passengers could easily determine the full price to be paid. Internet fare listings were permitted to disclose these separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees were extra, and the link had to take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees were displayed.
Under DOT’s recently adopted consumer rule that enhances protections for air travelers, carriers and ticket agents have been required to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare since Jan. 26. DOT’s airline price advertising rules apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers as well as ticket agents.
The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.