Four of the nation’s largest airlines were fined by the Federal Aviation Administration for giving passengers inaccurate information about how much compensation they should get for being kicked off an overbooked flight or having their luggage lost or damaged.
Alaska Airlines was fined $40,000; American Airlines was fined $45,000; Southwest Airlines was fined $40,000; and United Airlines was fined $35,000. All four were ordered to stop such violations.
Under Department of Transportation rules, passengers who are involuntarily bumped off an overbooked domestic flight must be offered an alternative flight that arrives no later than an hour after the original flight.
If the airline puts a bumped passenger on a flight that arrives between one and two hours after the original flight’s scheduled landing, the carrier must compensate the passenger 200% of the cost of the original fare, up to $675.
If the airline puts the bumped traveler on a flight that arrives more than two hours after the original arrival time, the airline must pay 400% of the cost of the ticket, up to $1,350.
Those dollar amounts were increased slightly last year, but DOT investigators said the airlines still were handing out pamphlets to passengers showing lower compensation amounts. In some cases, the airlines couldn’t produce information telling passengers how much they were entitled to collect.
The top payout a carrier must give each passenger whose luggage has been lost or damaged was raised last year to $3,500 from $3,400, but DOT investigators said the carriers were giving passengers notices that said the payout was less than $3,500.
In consent agreement documents provided by the DOT, all four airlines said they take passenger compensation rules seriously but agreed to pay the fines to settle the allegations.
“We are committed to ensuring that air travelers know the rules and have accurate information about compensation when they are bumped from flights and for lost, damaged or delayed baggage,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
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