The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced it has fined the Brazilian airline GOL $250,000 for violating a number of DOT’s rules protecting the rights of air travellers. The penalty stems from violations of the rules adopted in April 2011.
The DOT has ordered the airline to: “cease and desist” from further violations of the Department’s airline consumer rules.
“We adopted these rules to ensure that passengers are treated with respect when they buy a ticket or board a plane,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will not tolerate disregard of our rules and will take enforcement action when necessary to protect travellers.”
The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that GOL’s US website, for a period of time after it was launched in November 2012, failed to include a variety of information and features required by DOT air travel consumer protection rules. The website did not include a contingency plan for handling lengthy tarmac delays or a link from the homepage to a list of fees for baggage and other optional services.
The DOT says GOL also violated its full-fare advertising requirement by failing to include taxes and fees in fares displayed on the website in response to consumer searches. The full fare, including taxes and fees, was available only after the consumer selected a specific itinerary.
The DOT states the airline had also failed to post its contract of carriage in an easily accessible form on its website. A consumer had to begin the process of searching for an itinerary before being able to gain access to the contract information. “This made it hard to easily compare GOL’s contract with those of other airlines, and made obtaining the contract difficult for passengers who wanted to review the information online before booking a flight by telephone or with a ticket agent,” said a DOT press release which added how GOL had also failed to include required information about how consumers can file a complaint with the airline on its website.
The DOT’s full statement can be seen at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2013-0004.