You’ve probably seen Southwest’s ads showing popular destinations and promising low fares. You may have even thought “That sounds too good to be true”, and you may have been right. According to an Associated Press article posted by ABC News, the Department of Transportation hit Southwest with a whopping $200,000 in fines this week for violating the federal full fare advertising rule.
The regulation requires airlines to display the full cost of all fares, including taxes and fees. When an airline advertises a specific fare for a specific route, they must have a certain number of seats available for that flight. Last October, the DOT looked into Southwest’s advertised $59 fares from Atlanta to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, and discovered that Southwest had no seats available to those cities at that price, as advertised.
Southwest responded to the fines by explaining that the ads were a mistake and those three cities were never meant to be a part of the Atlanta fare sale. “As soon as we became aware of our mistake, we pulled all incorrect advertisements off the air,” the airline said in a statement, according to The Los Angeles Times. In addition to the fine, Southwest was ordered to pay $100,000 penalty that had been suspended after a previous violation of the same rule.
In that incident, Southwest advertised $66 one-way fares from Dallas Love Field to Branson, Missouri, between March 1, 2013, and March 21, 2013. However, the DOT found that there were no seats available at the advertised price during the sale period. The DOT fined Southwest $200,000 for that violation but suspended half the fine on the condition that the airline not violate the same rule for a period of one year. The second incident occurred seven months later.
This is not the only bad behavior for which Southwest has faced fines. In May of 2013, the airline was fined$150,000 for slow responses to customer complaints. In that instance, the Department of Transportation penalized Southwest “for not responding in a timely manner to complaints filed by consumers, including passengers with disabilities, and for not adequately responding to the passengers’ specific complaints in its responses”, according to a statement they released that was reported by The Dallas News. Southwest responded by saying technical problems with their website were to blame.
It seems like Southwest likes to pass the buck when it comes to taking responsibility for their errors. What do you think of these fines? Will this affect any decision you might make to fly Southwest?
Photo via planespotters.net