Sen. Boxer knocks airline for its response to new ticket price rules

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is sharply criticizing Spirit Airlines for its response to new price advertising rules from the Department of Transportation.

Spirit, a discount airline based in Florida, has protested DOT's requirement that advertisements for airline tickets include all taxes and fees in the prices that are listed for flights. The airline placed a pop-up ad on its website that says “new government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.”

But Boxer, writing to Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza about the new rules, which took effect this week, said that "nothing could be further from the truth."

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"I have been shocked by the failure of your airline to tell the truth in an email sent to your customers earlier this week as well as warnings posted on Spirit.com," Boxer, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, wrote to Baldanza.

"What the rule says is that you have to tell your customers the full cost of a ticket," she continued. "It prohibits Spirit or any other airline from advertising fares 'that exclude taxes, fees or other charges since the major impact of such presentations is to confuse and deceive consumers.' "

Boxer said Spirit should "immediately send a clarifying email to your customers and remove the misleading information from your website."

Spirit has defended its campaign against DOT's new rules, saying "[W]e believe that the better form of transparency is to break out costs so customers know exactly what they are buying.

"Spirit believes customers have a right to know how much of their fare goes toward government taxes and fees rather than hiding it in the fare," Baldaza said in a statement released this week.

"If the government can hide taxes in consumer's airfares — which they are mandating us to do starting this week — then they can quietly carry out their hidden agenda and increase the taxes consumers bear," he continued.

Spirit, Southwest and Allegiant airlines have filed a lawsuit challenging the DOT rules, which took effect Jan. 24. Spirit and AirTran Airways, which is owned by Southwest, were recently fined a combined $90,000 for violating the pricing rules in advertisements such as emails, tweets and on their websites.