The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans is levying a record fine against Spirit Airlines for violating DOT consumer regulations.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Spirit has been assessed a civil penalty of $375,000 for failing to comply with rules governing denied boarding compensation, fare advertising, baggage liability and other consumer protection requirements. The civil penalty to be paid is a DOT record for these kinds of violations, says the department.
“Protecting airline consumers against unfair and deceptive practices is an important part of the Department’s mission,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules.”
The DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that Spirit bumped passengers from oversold flights but did not provide compensation or a written notice of their rights to compensation, as required by DOT rules. The investigation also revealed that Spirit failed to resolve baggage claims within a reasonable period, on one occasion taking 14 months to provide compensation.
Spirit also was found to violate DOT rules by providing compensation for delayed baggage only for the outbound leg of round-trip flights and only for purchases made more than 24 hours after arrival. In addition, Spirit violated baggage liability laws governing international travel by refusing to accept responsibility for missing laptop computers and certain other items it accepted as baggage.
The department says Spirit also violated DOT rules requiring airfare advertisements to state the full price to be paid, by omitting unavoidable fees imposed by the airline from the base fare advertised. Spirit also failed to make available on request a copy of the department’s rule prohibiting discrimination against disabled passengers, says the DOT.
The DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office also cited Spirit for referring to DOT and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations when responding to consumer complaints, even though the complaints did not concern DOT or FAA rules. It says Spirit also violated DOT rules by failing to retain copies of consumer complaints and by failing to file required reports in a timely manner.
The Aviation Enforcement Office’s investigation of Spirit involved a review of complaints filed with the DOT by consumers, as well as inspections at airports and a review of records at Spirit headquarters. The DOT says its Aviation Enforcement Office will conduct a follow-up investigation of Spirit during the coming year.