07 January 2009

US Airways fined $140,000 for unfairly bumping passengers

by Jeffrey White Jan 7th 2009 @ 9:30AM

The US Dept. of Transportation has fined US Airways $140,000 for violating a number of regulations in the way they handle bumping passengers from overbooked flights.The fine came last month. In agreeing to the penalty, US Airways avoids further litigation for the violations, the DOT says.What did the airline do wrong, exactly? Violated the department's over-sales rule, 14 CFR Part 250, from July 2007 to July 2008. Huh? Basically, the DOT nailed the airline for:

Failing to solicit volunteers before bumping passengers

Failing to give said bumped passengers written notice

Failing to give bumped passengers timely redress, i.e. monetary compensation and/or another flight US Airways says it has reworked the way it trains its ground crews to ensure that they know now how better to comply with DOT regulations when dealing with overbooked flights.

In paying the fine, US Airways is not admitting to or denying any mistakes, the DOT says.
Here's part of the DOT's finding.

Picked this up on flyertalk.com.

Frankly, the fine should have been higher ($140,000). But it's so like Tempe to neither admit or deny wrongdoing and just pay the hush money to make it go away. I can think of a lot of places $140K could help out around the system....

Order 2008-12-13
OST-2008-0031 - Consent Orders

Issued and Served December 23, 2008

This Consent Order concerns violations by US Airways, Inc. of the Department’s oversales rule, 14 CFR Part 250, and the statutory prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices, 49 U.S.C. § 41712. The violations stem from the carrier’s failure 1) to solicit volunteers before involuntarily denying boarding to passengers on oversold flights, 2) to furnish the required written notice to passengers who were denied boarding (“bumped”) involuntarily, and 3) to provide in a timely manner bumped passengers with the appropriate amount and type of denied boarding compensation. The order assesses US Airways a civil penalty of $140,000.

A recent review of US Airways’ passenger complaint records from July 2007 to July 2008 conducted by the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and of passenger complaints involving US Airways during the same period sent directly to the Enforcement Office revealed numerous instances in which the carrier bumped passengers, but did not follow one or more of the provisions of 14 CFR Part 250.

In mitigation, US Airways states that it did ultimately compensate all of the passengers identified by the Department. In addition, US Airways states that it has revamped its applicable training program to ensure that all airport staff are current on all Part 250 rules. US Airways is also reexamining its policies and procedures relating to overbooking to ensure a smoother process at the airport when it becomes necessary to seek volunteers or deny boarding.

In order to avoid litigation and without admitting or denying the violations described above, US Airways, Inc., agrees to the issuance of this order to cease and desist from future violations of 14 CFR Part 250 and 49 U.S.C. § 41712. US Airways, Inc., further agrees to the assessment of $140,000 in compromise of potential civil penalties otherwise assessable against it. The Enforcement Office believes that this compromise assessment is appropriate in view of the nature and extent of the violations in question, serves the public interest, and provides a strong incentive to all airlines to comply with the Department’s denied boarding regulation.

Thanks to Moody75.

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