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Continental, US Airways violated price advertising rules, DOT says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Transportation Department fines Continental $120,000 and US Airways $45,000
  • The airlines did not adequately disclose the full price fares on certain flights, DOT says
  • "Passengers have the right to know how much they will have to pay," LaHood says

(CNN) -- The Department of Transportation fined Continental Airlines and US Airways on Thursday for violating the department's price advertising rules.

Continental was fined $120,000 for excluding fuel surcharges in its listed fares, and US Airways was handed a $45,000 penalty for not providing information directly to customers on additional taxes and fees that applied to listed fares to Rome, according to a news release from the Department of Transportation.

"Protecting the rights of airline consumers is a high priority for the Department of Transportation," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "Passengers have the right to know how much they will have to pay when they buy an airline ticket, and we will continue to take enforcement action when these rules are violated."

The department requires airlines to include the full price to be paid by air passengers when advertising fares, including all surcharges imposed by the carrier. Government-imposed taxes and fees are an exception to the rule, and can be stated separately from the listed fare, "but must be clearly disclosed in the advertisement so that passengers can easily determine the full price they must pay." Those additional fees are often seen in a link beneath the listed fare, which then takes consumers to a separate page detailing the added charges.

The department's Aviation Enforcement Office found in a review of Continental's website that the airline failed to include fuel surcharges in its listed fares, citing one flight from San Jose, California, to San Salvador, El Salvador, shown as $298. Once the fuel surcharge was added to the fare on the third page of the advertisement, the fare jumped to $538.

Continental issued a statement Thursday saying it "immediately responded to the DOT's concerns and addressed the issue."

The review also found violations on US Airways' homepage on advertised fares to Rome.

"There was an asterisk next to the fare and a statement that additional taxes and fees might apply, but there was no information on the type or amount of fees in either the ad or on the homepage," the department's news release said. "Although the reference to taxes and fees included a hyperlink, the link did not take the reader directly to an explanation of the additional charges."

CNN's Devon Sayers contributed to this report.