Feds Fine American Airlines Over Voucher Fees

The Department of Transportation sends word today that it's charging American Airlines for charging its passengers for agreeing to swap seats on oversold flights for travel vouchers. Because, ya see, the Fort Worth-based carrier doesn't just let you use the vouchers gratis -- turns out, AA charges an up-to-$30 ticketing fee to its most considerate customers, how considerate. And the feds say: That's just effing effed-up.

Hence, the $90,000 "civil penalty" slapped on AA for being so damned uncivilized: "When passengers volunteer to give up their seat on an oversold flight, they are entitled to be fully compensated -- not to find out later that they're getting $30 less," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the DOT's release, which also notes this is the first time the department's ever penalized an airline over undisclosed voucher fees. "Passengers deserve to be treated fairly when they fly, and especially when they've volunteered to give up their seat because the airline overbooked their flight."

From the announcement:

An investigation by DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office found that American offered passengers travel vouchers worth specific dollar amounts as compensation for voluntary bumping. When awarding the vouchers, American did not tell passengers they would have to pay a ticketing fee to redeem the vouchers by telephone or at airport ticket counters, or that the vouchers could not be redeemed on the carrier's internet site. American stopped requiring fees for tickets purchased by phone using vouchers about four years ago but continued to require fees for tickets acquired at airport counters until late last year, and even today passengers cannot use bumping vouchers to purchase tickets online. The carrier also did not tell passengers that vouchers used for tickets purchased by telephone had to be mailed to the carrier for processing as much as three weeks before the departure date.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky