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Airlines prefer to keep the compensation rules murky. It helps them wheel and deal at the departure gate when necessary.

The government is fining four airlines for failing to have accurate notices explaining compensation for passengers who are bumped from flights or whose baggage is damaged or lost.

The Department of Transportation said Friday that it fined American Airlines $45,000, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines $40,000 each, and United Airlines $35,000.

Under federal rules, airlines must explain potential compensation when they bump passengers from an oversold flight. Rules also generally bar airlines from limiting their liability when they lose, damage or delay a passenger’s bag to less than $3,500.

The department said that during airport inspections, airline agents at gates or ticket counters didn’t have the required notices or had outdated or inaccurate information.

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Tags: alaska airlines, american airlines, paxex, southwest airlines, united airlines

Photo Credit: Alaska Air is one of four U.S. carriers fined for not properly disclosing how it compensates passengers when they've been bumped from flights. Eric Salard / Flickr