DOT Fines Southwest For Promoting Deals But Not Actually Making Seats Available At Sale Prices

Is a sale a sale when only a few people can actually take advantage of the deal, or if no one at all can get a piece of the advertised deal action? Nope, said the Department of Transportation, which has fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for touting a sale that didn’t provide enough actual seats — or in one case, any at all — at the bargain price it advertised.

The DOT says Southwest violated its full-fare advertising rules with last January’s “Luv a Fare Sale.” Under the agency’s regulations, airlines must inform consumers of the total cost when advertising fares.

In this case, reports the Los Angeles Times, Southwest pushed a deal without offering the sale price on a “reasonable” number of seats. The Luv a Fare sale touted one-way nonstop flights for less than $100, but the DOT says that offer only worked for about 1%-2% of the seats available on some routes.

Let’s say a flight has about 180 people on it, and a generous 2% of those passengers were able to get the deal. That means about three and a half people (if there were such a thing has a half person, which I assure, there is not) would’ve benefited from the purported sale. Making it not much of a sale at all, eh?

Another promo that fell afoul of the DOT involved $66 flights from Dallas to Branson, Mo. When it came time to actually find seats available for that price when the sale was running, the DOT said there were none to be found.

Southwest said the Luv a Sale was available on 786 routes, and that the absence of $66 fares was all because of a technical glitch. The DOT is of the mind that the airline still violated full-fare advertising rules and also used unfair and deceptive practices in marketing those deals.

“Consumers should be able to trust that the price they see advertised is the price they’ll pay for a seat,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.  “DOT will continue to take enforcement action against carriers and ticket agents when our price advertising rules are violated.”

Southwest Airlines fined $200,000 for fare advertising violations [Los Angeles Times]