Orbitz Worldwide was fined $50,000 Monday by the U.S. Department of Transportation for failing to clearly and prominently inform airline consumers that they might have to pay baggage fees. Orbitz made the proper disclosure, but it was too far down on its webpage, the DOT said. Orbitz said in a statement that “we promptly corrected how we displayed airline baggage fee information to be consistent with DOT’s preference.”
Full DOT statement on the Orbitz fine:
Orbitz Fined for Failing to Disclose Baggage Fees Properly
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined online ticket agent Orbitz $50,000 for violating the Department’s expanded airline passenger protection rule by failing to clearly and prominently inform consumers that they may have to pay baggage fees, and directed the company to cease and desist from further violations.
“Airline passengers should be able to determine the full cost of their trip, including baggage fees, quickly and easily,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The Department adopted its rules on baggage fees to ensure that consumers have complete and accurate information about how much they will have to pay when they book a flight, and we will continue to take enforcement action when carriers and ticket agents fail to comply with our rules.”
Under a new DOT rule which took effect Jan. 24, carriers and ticket agents must disclose to consumers booking a flight that they may have to pay baggage fees in addition to the basic ticket price. When consumers book a flight on-line, carriers must clearly and prominently disclose on the first screen that offers a specific itinerary that additional baggage fees may apply and tell the consumer where they can view the fees. The rule applies to all airlines selling air transportation in the United States, including foreign carriers.
For a short period of time after Jan. 24, Orbitz’s website disclosed on the first webpage in which it offered fare quotations for specific itineraries that additional fees for baggage may apply and where consumers could see those fees. However, the location of the disclosure may have required consumers to scroll to the bottom of the first webpage, and therefore was not clear and prominent as required by DOT’s rule.
The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.