Senator Calls Out Spirit Airlines For Trying To Mislead Public About Airfares

You may recall that earlier this week, bottom-dollar carrier Spirit Airlines launched an e-mail campaign to convince customers that the new FAA regulations requiring truth in airfare advertising was really just a ruse by the federal government to hide taxes and tax hikes in airfares. Well, that didn’t go over well with Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who threw off the gloves and sent a bare-knuckles letter to Spirit in response.

Herewith the text of the letter sent today from Senator Boxer to Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza:

Dear Mr. Baldanza:
I write to you today regarding my concern with Spirit Airlines’ deliberate attempt to deceive the flying public about a new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that will improve the transparency of airfares for consumers.

I have been shocked by the failure of your airline to tell the truth in an email sent to your customers earlier this week as well as warnings posted on that read, “New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the rule says is that you have to tell your customers the full cost of a ticket. It prohibits Spirit or any other airline from advertising fares “that exclude taxes, fees or other charges since the major impact of such presentations is to confuse and deceive consumers.”

And despite Spirit’s claim that the airline must now hide relevant information, the rule “allows carriers to advise the public in their fare solicitations about government taxes and fees…”

Today’s consumers are faced with many options when planning air travel and being able to compare the full price before purchase is both necessary and fair. Your recent statement that “the better form of transparency is to break out costs so that consumers know exactly what they are buying” is exactly what this new DOT rule will help do.

I urge you to immediately send a clarifying email to your customers and remove the misleading information from your website.

Thank you for your attention on this important consumer issue.
Barbara Boxer

As we pointed out in the earlier story, Spirit’s claim to being the “most consumer-friendly airline,” is dubious at best, considering it introduced fees for carry-ons (which they called a “consumer benefit”), thinks you should have to pay to speak to a human being, and believes you should be charged $5 to have your boarding pass printed at the airport.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.