Feds fine Allegiant Air for disability, advertising violations

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Feb 15, 2012

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Allegiant Air was fined $100,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation Wednesday for violating disability regulations. It was also fined for not complying with advertising rules about fares.

Carriers are required to categorize disability-related complaints by type and nature. Annual reports are to be submitted to DOT. The issues in the complaint must be recorded so the total number of complaints received can be indicated. DOT takes this number and makes it available on the Internet for consumers. It also submits it to Congress.

An airline also must respond in writing to complaints about the violation of disability rules. It must tell the complainant that the matter can be referred to DOT for investigation.

DOT reviewed a sample of the disability-related complaints Allegiant received directly and indirectly through DOT during 2009 and 2010. It was determined that in a number of instances Allegiant responded by phone instead of in writing. It also did not categorize the complaints properly.

It was also determined that Allegiant violated DOT's price advertising rule by posting offers that not did not disclose that taxes and fees would be extra for free flights to Las Vegas and Tampa Bay, Fla. Although the advertisements did have an asterisk after the words "Fly Free," there was no information on taxes and fees and no hyperlink on the page where the asterisk appeared. Allegiant also did not indicate that they included a fee of $14.99 for tickets purchased anywhere except at one of their ticket offices.

These actions violated the DOT's new rule requiring ads for airfares to the amount of taxes and fees. This rule became effective in January.

"We adopted our rules on reporting of disability complaints and advertising of airfares to protect consumers," DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said. "Protecting the rights of airline passengers is a high priority for DOT, and we will take enforcement action when our rules are violated."

Allegiant and two other airlines, Spirit and Southwest, have filed a lawsuit challenging the DOT price rules about federal taxes and fees.

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