Report: Fined airlines suing over DOT price advertising rules

Turbulence is surrounding new Department of Transportation rules regarding price advertising of airline tickets, as several airlines that have been fined for violations have taken off with a lawsuit.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that Southwest, Spirit and Allegiant airlines have challenged DOT's requirement that advertisements include all taxes and fees in ticket prices for flights. The airlines are arguing that the requirement makes the rules for their industry more stringent than any other, the paper has reported.

Spirit Airlines and AirTran Airways, which is owned by Southwest, were fined a combined $90,000 for violating the pricing rules in advertisements such as emails, tweets and on their websites. Allegiant Airlines was fined in 2009 for not including a convenience fee in initial fare quotes.

DOT told The Hill Wednesday that it could not comment on the lawsuit because it was pending litigation, but the Washington-based lobbying group for airlines defended the industry's advertising practices.

“All Airlines for America (A4A) members provide details on ticket prices and other charges prior to purchase today," A4A vice president Steve Lott said in an email.

"We believe consumers should always know what they are paying for, including how much of their ticket prices go to taxes," he continued. "We share the DOT goal of continuously improving the customer experience and our member airlines will implement the new rules as efficiently as possible.”

While A4A filed a brief with the D.C. Court of Appeals in the lawsuit, the organization notes it is not a party to the case itself. In its legal filing though, A4A said DOT's price-advertising rules required airlines to adhere to a different, and unfair, set of rules. 

"ATA members share DOT’s stated objective of ensuring that customers are treated fairly and consistently, receiving the products and services for which they have paid on the basis advertised to them," the organization's filing said. "But ATA members do not share DOT’s unstated but apparent goal of holding airlines to much higher standards of conduct than prevail in other deregulated industries."