Federal regulators determined that American Airlines employees falsely told passengers that ticket surcharges were government taxes when they were actually fees charged by American Airlines.
The DOT released a statement in response to the fine.
“We expect airlines to be truthful to their customers when they provide information about their fares,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines fail to disclose their fares fully and accurately.”
Under the DOT’s full-fare advertising rule, airlines must state the entire price to be paid by the passenger, inclusive of all taxes, fees, and airline surcharges as the first price the consumer sees. While the fees do not need to be separated and line itemed, the quoted fare must show all costs borne to the passenger.
The investigation by the DOT found that on multiple occasions in 2012 and 2013, American Airlines telephone reservation agents incorrectly told customers that government taxes and fees imposed by American were “taxes.” Although most of the charges were not taxes but carrier imposed fees and fuel surcharges.
Additionally, pop-up windows on the American website incorrectly displayed the surcharges as taxes.
Bill Mosely, a DOT spokesman said it was "mostly a matter of not training their agents as well as they could, not a deliberate attempt to deceive passengers.
American Airlines has since corrected its website and provided additional training for its reservation agents.
American Airlines stated that the mistakes were merely “instances” when the fees “were characterized simply as taxes.”
“Our employees have received additional training to help ensure that price components are accurately and effectively communicated to our customers consistent with AA policy,” American said.