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Spirit Airlines fined for deceptive advertising

You didn’t think those $9 fares were real, did you?

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Spirit Airlines $50,000 for using misleading price advertising in a series of billboards, posters and Twitter messages. 

In a statement, DOT noted that when advertising a new Los Angeles service in June 2011, Spirit sent Twitter messages announcing $9 each-way fares and that, in violation of current rules, the amount of additional taxes and fees to be levied were not disclosed until two clicks into the airline’s website.

DOT also noted that billboards and posters that were part of the same campaign had an asterisk next to the advertised fare. Again, in violation of DOT rules, the small print stated that additional taxes, fees and conditions would apply, but did not disclose how much those taxes and fees would be.

With the exception of per-passenger, government-imposed taxes and fees such as passenger facility charges, DOT rules require that airlines include the full price a traveler will pay — including any surcharges to be added by the carrier — when advertising fares. Beginning Jan. 24, 2012, air carriers will be required to include all government taxes and fees in advertised fares as well.

“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying when they buy an airline ticket,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We expect airlines to treat their passengers fairly, and we will take enforcement action when they violate our price advertising rules.”

A Spirit Airlines spokesperson told msnbc.com the carrier has no comment.

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