The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty against the ticket agent Unique Vacations for violating the Department’s rules for advertising the price of air travel. The company was assessed a civil penalty of $200,000.
“When people buy tickets for air travel, they have the right to know how much they will have to pay,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to take enforcement action when our price advertising rules are violated.”
DOT requires any advertising that includes a price for air transportation or an air tour to state the full price to be paid by the consumer. The only exception is government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, which may be omitted from the stated fare but must clearly appear in the advertisement so that passengers can determine the full price they must pay. Ticket agents that sell air tour packages are covered by the rules.
The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office investigated Unique Vacations’ ads and found that they violated DOT’s requirements. The company advertised “free” air fares to certain Caribbean resorts, although the consumer actually would have to pay certain taxes and fees or airline costs such as fuel surcharges. Many of the fares advertised as free involved only a limited dollar credit toward an air fare, with consumers having to pay any additional costs. These ads were published on the Internet and in numerous major newspapers, and were broadcast on television throughout the United States. The “free” fare offer also was published on the website of Sandals Resorts, one of the destinations sold by Unique Vacations.
The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2010-0005.