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September 5, 2012

Aeroflot Fined for Violating DOT Advertising Rules

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Written by: BNO News
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An Aeroflot Airbus A330-300, VQ-BQZ. (Photo by Kaz T)

The US Department of Transportation on Tuesday fined Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot for violating new rules in the United States which require carriers to advertise the full fare and allow customers to hold reservations for 24 hours.

New DOT airline passenger protection rules took effect on January 26 and require both US and foreign airlines as well as ticket agents to advertise the full fare, including government taxes and fees. Previously, airlines and ticket agents were not required to include certain government-imposed taxes as long as these additional charges were clearly disclosed.

But US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said airfare searches on Aeroflot’s website after January 26 returned separate listings of base fares for outbound and inbound legs that did not include additional government taxes and fees. The total fare to be charged was ultimately disclosed at the bottom of Aeroflot’s website, but the carrier failed to advertise the entire price to be paid by the consumer when a fare was first stated.

LaHood said Aeroflot also violated a new rule which requires airlines to include a commitment in their customer service plans allowing reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after a reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more before a flight’s departure. A customer service plan posted on Aeroflot’s website between January 24 and March 13 did not include this commitment.

“Airline passengers should be able to easily determine the full price for air transportation before they travel, and have the opportunity to either reserve a ticket without payment or cancel without penalty for 24 hours,” LaHood said in a statement. “DOT will continue to stand up for consumers and take enforcement action when these rules are violated.”

The DOT said it fined Aeroflot a civil penalty of $60,000 and ordered the carrier to cease and desist from further violations. Aeroflot is the flag carrier and largest airline in Russia, flying millions of people a year to dozens of destinations around the world.

Enforcement of the new advertising rules has taken off over the past two months, with DOT handing down fines to JetBlue, Orbitz, Royal Jordanian Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc, Philippine Airlines, Santa Barbara Airlines and others.

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