News Column

American Airlines Fined for Lying About Surcharges

December 11, 2013
American Airlines

American Airlines was fined $60,000 by federal regulators on Wednesday after airline agents incorrectly told consumers that surcharges were government-imposed taxes.

"We expect airlines to be truthful to their customers when they provide information about their fares," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines fail to disclose their fares fully and accurately."

The fine by the U.S. Department of Transportation was for violating the department's full-fare advertising rule. It says the first price quoted for air transportation made by an airline or ticket agent must state the entire price to be paid by the consumer, including all mandatory taxes, fees and airline surcharges. Airlines do not have to break out the components of the fare, but if they do, they must accurately show the costs of the services or taxes.

A DOT investigation found that on a number of occasions in 2012 and 2013, American's telephone reservation agents "mistakenly" told consumers that a variety of additional taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges were collectively "taxes." But a significant portion of the charges were not taxes but fees imposed by the airline, such as fuel surcharges. Also, pop-ups on the airline's website claimed that the surcharges were taxes and, on at least one occasion, American issued a reservation statement labeling surcharges as taxes.

American Airlines has corrected its website and provided additional training to its agents.

American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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Original headline: American Airlines fined for violating fare disclosure rules

Source: (c)2013 the Chicago Tribune

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