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January 6, 2012

DOT Fines AirTran Over Online Ads

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The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday fined AirTran Airways $60,000 for violations related to an advertisement that did not properly disclose the fees associated with a fare.

AirTran 737-700 departing off of runway 13 at LaGuardia Airport

AirTran 737-700 departing off of runway 13 at LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by Phil Derner, Jr.)

During the fall of 2011, an AirTran banner advertisement appeared on various websites bearing the headline, “Select destination on SALE Starting at $59 one way.” The DOT claims that while the ads noted that “additional taxes, fees and exclusions” would apply, these extras were not listed in the ad itself or through a prominent link, as required by law. The taxes and fees were only visible once the reader clicked the ad and manually scrolled to the very bottom of a page listing the available cities on sale.

AirTran, now owned by Southwest Airlines, told the DOT the design of the ad was an error and promised that the offense would not be repeated. The airline has 30 days to pay half of the fine, and the remainder will be waived so long as AirTran keeps its nose clean for the following year.



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