Tara Monks / Dallas-based Southwest Airlines fined $20,000 by DOT for bumping passengers

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines fined $20,000 by DOT for bumping passengers

The U.S. Department of Transportation cited Southwest for failing to give passengers notifications of rights and grant prompt cash reimbursements.

Wiki Image: Southwest faces $200,000 fine for bumping passengers
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines fined $20,000 by DOT for bumping passengers

// West Palm Beach, FL , USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Dallas, TX – Southwest Airlines Co., was fined $200,000 on Tuesday, April 27, 2010, for violating rules on bumping passengers off oversold flights, as reported by the Philadelphia Enquirer.

Southwest Airlines bumped more passengers than any other U.S. carrier last year. A review by the Transportation Department said Southwest failed to promptly pay passengers they kicked off of oversold flights. The airline also failed to give those passengers written notices of their rights.

According to federal regulations, airlines are permitted to sell more seats than they actually have because some passengers fail to show.

While that would violate laws against deceptive sales tactics in other businesses, airlines get a break under the theory that they can give buyers lower prices if they are not stuck with empty seats.

In 2009, Southwest booted 13,113 passengers, which is 80 percent more than the next closest airline. In the company's defense, Southwest also carried more U.S. passengers than other airlines, which resulted in higher chances of passengers getting kicked off.

Federal rules state airlines must first ask for volunteers to give up seats in exchange for compensation. If the airline is still lacking seating, they can begin bumping passengers who bought tickets. Passengers are typically entitled to $800 in cash.

Airlines are also required to give denied passengers a written statement that explains their rights. The companies can offer travel vouchers instead of cash, but only after they inform the passengers of their entitlement to a cash reimbursement.

The Transportation Department said it would waive $90,000 in civil penalties if the airline does not break the guidelines over the next year.

While the exact number of violations was not disclosed, the company claims to follow the rules, for the most part. The company agreed to provide extra training for employees to improve rule compliance. It also said it would grant customers a better notice of their rights when they buy tickets on the company’s Web site.

Southwest spokeswoman, Brandy King, told reporters, “We take every violation seriously and are working to improve our procedures to ensure full compliance with DOT regulations and to provide the best possible experience for all of our customers.”

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