Southwest Airlines has been hit with a $200,000 fine from the Department of Transportation because they advertised extremely low airfares that practically no one could book.
Earlier in the year, the airline ran a “Luv a Fare Sale” which offered one way tickets for less than $100 each for Valentine’s Day travel, but according to the government, the tickets were extremely hard to acquire. As an example, only two percent of the seats of a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas could be booked at the discounted rate. Only one percent of the seats qualified on a flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix for the discounted rate.
In January, the airline advertised another sale that featured $66 fares from Branson, Mo., to Dallas, Tex., but the government investigation revealed the airline did not offer one single seat at that fair between those two cities. Federal rules hold that “failure to have a reasonable number of seats available at the advertised fare” is a violation of law. It also constitutes unfair and deceptive business practices.
Southwest argued in their defense that less than 10 percent of all routes advertised in the sale were sell outs. It said the Branson-Dallas fare non-existence was due to a technical error. In the end, the results were that the government felt Southwest had indeed violated the law and fined the company $200,000, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the company’s revenues.
Just last week, the airline reported $10 billion in revenue for the second quarter. However, this fine should be a warning to those who fly that if they see an exceptionally low rate, they should grab a seat before they are all gone. If the fares sell out exceptionally fast, you may want to contact the Department of Transportation so they can look into the situation.
Sometimes discounted airfares are not as generous as they appear in the ads. Instead, the seats are almost always very limited and get scooped up quickly. Therefore, when seeing an amazing deal advertised, proceed with caution and book seats as soon as possible. Read all of the fine print, and do not hesitate to ask questions.
Many experts believe that Southwest being fined for the infraction may encourage airlines to be more cautious in their advertising and to take more care in scheduling their promotions. This may affect future discount flight sales, according to experts.
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