In the fall of 2011, AirTran Airways advertised one-way fares for $59, but failed to provide customers with information about the type or amount of applicable taxes and fees.
That omission, which is a violation of the Department of Transportation's rules for price advertising in air travel, will cost the airline; the DOT fined AirTran $60,000 today as a penalty.
The airline did note in the advertisement that the fare would include additional taxes and fees, but a consumer could only find those details — presented in fine print — by clicking on the ad and scrolling to the bottom of a page displaying routes and prices.
“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying when they buy an airline ticket,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement about the fine.
According to DOT rules, fare advertisements must state the full price to be paid by the customer. Only per-passenger government-imposed taxes and fees are exempted from this rule. When fares are advertised online, fees and taxes must be disclosed through a "prominent" link that takes customers to a pager where that information is clearly presented.
A new DOT rule that requires airlines to disclose all fees, including government fees and taxes, is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 26.