The federal government this week fined low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines $50,000 for what it said was deceptive advertising.
“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying when they buy an airline ticket,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a news release. “We expect airlines to treat their passengers fairly, and we will take enforcement action when they violate our price advertising rules.”
In a release, the DOT said:
DOT rules require 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.
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 $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.