The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined Aeroflot, a carrier based in Russia, for violating the Department's expanded airline passenger protection rules, which took effect in January.
Aeroflot violated the rule on full-fare advertising and the rule requiring airlines to include a commitment in their customer service plans allowing consumers either to hold reservations at the quoted fare without payment, or cancel without penalty, for 24 hours after they book a flight. The airline was assessed a civil penalty of $60,000, and was ordered to cease and desist from further violations.
"Airline passengers should be able to easily determine the full price for air transportation before they travel, and have the opportunity to either reserve a ticket without payment or cancel without penalty for 24 hours," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "DOT will continue to stand up for consumers and take enforcement action when these rules are violated."
DOT requires all advertisements that include airfares to state the entire price to be paid by the consumer. Prior to a rule that took effect Jan. 26, advertised fares were not required to include certain government-imposed taxes, as long as these additional charges were clearly disclosed in the ad. Under the new full-fare advertising rule, all government taxes and fees must be included in the advertised fare. The rule applies to both U.S. and foreign airlines as well as ticket agents.
Airfare searches on Aeroflot's website after Jan. 26 returned separate listings of base fares for outbound and inbound legs that did not include additional government taxes and fees. The total fare to be charged, including taxes and fees, was ultimately disclosed at the bottom of Aeroflot's website, but the carrier failed to advertise the entire price to be paid by the consumer when a fare was first stated.
DOT requires carriers to include a commitment in their customer service plans allowing reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after a reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more before a flight's departure. The customer service plan posted on Aeroflot's website between Jan. 24 and March 13 did not include this commitment.
The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.