By Vicki Needham - 02/28/11 04:56 PM EST
Under the department's oversales rules, an airline must first seek volunteers willing to give up their seat on an oversold flight before bumping passengers involuntarily. The carrier can offer any type or amount of compensation agreed to by the volunteer, compared with involuntary bumping situations, where airlines are required to compensate passengers in cash.
An investigation by the department's Aviation Enforcement Office found that American offered passengers travel vouchers worth specific dollar amounts as compensation for voluntary being bumped, but failed to inform them of the fees for redeeming the vouchers by telephone or at airport ticket counters. Passengers also weren't informed that the vouchers can't be redeemed on the airline's website.
Although American stopped requiring fees for tickets purchased by phone using vouchers about four years ago, the company continued to require fees for tickets acquired at airport counters until late last year. Passengers still can't use the vouchers to purchase tickets online.
The carrier also did not tell passengers that vouchers used for tickets purchased by telephone had to be mailed to the carrier for processing as much as three weeks before the departure date.