Allegiant Air gets Fined by the FEDS!

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air has been fined $50,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation for violating its new full-fare advertising rules as well as regulations protecting air travelers with disabilities.

The department announced Wednesday that Allegiant violated rules imposed last month requiring airlines to post the existence and amount of government-imposed taxes and fees when posting fares.

When the department disciplines an airline, it generally files a suit against the company. In Allegiant’s case, an initial $100,000 fine was reduced to $50,000 in a settlement. The airline would have to pay another $50,000 if it violates the rule again within a year.

The department’s enforcement office said Allegiant posted offers on its web page offering free flights to Las Vegas and the Tampa Bay area. The department said that although an asterisk appeared after the words “fly free,” there was no information on taxes and fees on the page where the asterisk appeared.

A list of taxes and fees appeared on a page if a customer clicked the ad and moved to another page. The department also said Allegiant did not list a $15 fee customers must pay if they make their purchase anywhere but at an airport ticket counter.

 

The department also said Allegiant violated rules on the reporting of complaints from people with disabilities in 2009 and 2010. Airlines are required to respond to complaints on disabilities by mail within 30 days, but Allegiant resolved some of its complaints by telephone.

 

The department said the airline failed to record all complaints it received and failed to categorize and account for all complaints.

 

The airline plans no public comment on the fine, but Allegiant Chairman and CEO Maurice Gallagher emailed a message to employees Wednesday afternoon about the department’s announcement.

 

“The DOT’s first findings pertain to our handling of complaints from passengers with disabilities,” Gallagher’s note said. “It’s important to note that the DOT did not identify any deficiencies in our accommodation of passengers during their travel experience. We have always been, and will always remain, committed to meeting the needs of passengers with disabilities. Instead, the DOT chose to fine us for resolving a modest number of passenger complaints with a personal phone call, often as requested by the passenger, instead of a letter, as directed by the DOT. While we must comply with regulations, we stand by the good-faith efforts of our customer service team to honor our customers’ wishes and resolve their issues through a personal conversation.

 

“The other issue was our popular ‘Fly Free’ promotion. Regulators at the DOT didn’t like our December 2010-January 2011 promotions because they claim customers are deceived by the word ‘free’ unless government taxes and fees are disclosed in a certain location and convenience fees aren’t applied. In reality, these promotions offered our customers a fantastic deal and allowed them to see exactly how much of their money was going to the government. We continue to receive customer requests to reinstate the ‘Fly Free’ campaign, but it appears DOT’s regulations that took effect last month won’t allow us to.

 

“Allegiant has a bright future ahead and I’m excited to continue growing our business together with each of you,” Gallagher said. “It’s unfortunate when unnecessary regulations from our own government present challenges along the way, but we will continue to fight for every opportunity to provide our travelers with an amazing deal.”