DOT penalizes United Airlines

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has assessed a $30,000 civil penalty against United Airlines for failing to disclose the full price consumers must pay for air transportation as required by the Department’s rules.

The DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that for approximately 60 hours, United failed to include the 7.5 percent federal excise tax in fares in the initial search results page of its web site. Under DOT rules, all fares published by airlines must include the full price to be paid by consumers, with the only exceptions being government taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis. Because the excise tax is based on a percentage of the ticket price and is not a per-passenger charge, DOT rules require that it be incorporated into the advertised fare.

This is the second penalty against United for price advertising violations within the past five months. On Aug. 25, 2009, DOT fined United $75,000 for failing to provide appropriate notice of taxes and fees at the first point a fare was advertised on its web site, and for publishing each-way fares without making it clear that they were available only for a roundtrip flight. At that time, United was required to pay $37,500 of the penalty immediately, with the rest payable if the carrier violated the price advertising rules again within one year. As a result of this most recent violation, United was required to pay the additional $37,500.

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