[Updated, with comment from Spirit]
The U.S. Department of Transportation said today that it fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for violations of rules on bumping passengers as part of a crackdown on “unfair and deceptive practices.”
On his blog, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “This civil penalty is a record for these kinds of violations. The message should be clear. We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules.”
Spirit, said LaHood “bumped passengers from oversold flights but did not provide compensation or a written notice of passengers’ rights to compensation–as required by DOT rules protecting consumers.”
“Spirit also failed to resolve baggage claims within a reasonable time. In one case, they took 14 months to provide traveler compensation. The airline provided compensation only for baggage on the outbound leg of round-trip flights. And, the airline refused to accept responsibility for missing laptops and other items Spirit had accepted as baggage.
“Spirit also violated DOT rules requiring airfare ads to state the full price to be paid. The fares advertised omitted fees Spirit tacked onto base fares.
“Spirit violated several other DOT consumer-protection rules, all-in-all leading to Enforcement Office review of complaints filed by consumers, inspections at airports, and a review of Spirit’s records. The Office will follow-up its investigation in the coming year.
“This kind of treatment of America’s airline customers is not just a violation of rules; it’s unacceptable. This DOT says passengers deserve better, and they will receive better.”
Hmmm, strong words.
On its Web site, Spirit says the following:
“Obviously we are proud to have broken the rules and created arguably the best airline in the Americas. But don’t take our word for it; book Spirit for your next trip so you can see first hand what everyone is raving about. …”
Nah, I’m kidding. that isn’t Spirit’s comment on being fined for actually breaking the rules. It’s just the boilerplate it runs on its Web site every day.
Spirit’s comment on the DOT fine:
"Our new ultra low cost carrier model is the most consumer friendly airline model in the world. … We have addressed all the core issues that caused customer experience challenges a few years ago including upgrading our computer systems and utilizing a new reservations partner. Additionally, once the TSA relocated their machines in FLL, the airport experience improved significantly. …"