Five Airlines Being Probed For Price-Gouging Following Amtrak Accident

Five airlines are at the center of a newly opened federal investigation into price-gouging for their actions in allegedly raising airfares following the May derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured 200 others.

The U.S. Department of Transportation sent letters to JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, United and American airlines today seeking pricing information for air travel routes most likely affected by the temporary shutdown of rail travel along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

“The idea that any business would seek to take advantage of stranded rail passengers in the wake of such a tragic event is unacceptable,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement on the DOT website. “This Department takes all allegations of airline price-gouging seriously, and we will pursue a thorough investigation of these consumer complaints.”

Service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor was halted for several days in the wake of the May 12 crash. Trains began to fully servicing the corridor again on May 19. However, the Department is seeking information on airfare prices for each day between April 28 to May 26, 2015.

USA Today reports that the Department’s inquiry was initiated after receiving anecdotal evidence from consumers and a request from Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy following the derailment.

Murphy sent a letter to the DOT in May saying that many of his constituents had noticed raising airfare prices coinciding with the rail travel interruption.

“If this drastic and sudden increase in ticket prices is an effort to make money from desperate travelers impacted by this tragedy, you should fully exercise the enforcement powers vested in your agencies,” he wrote at the time, noting that in one instance a ticket from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Washington, D.C., was priced at $2,309.

The DOT’s letter to the airlines asks for information to be returned within 30 days.

A spokesperson for American tells USA Today that the airline added capacity but kept the same fare structure in the days following the crash.

“We are cooperating with the DOT and are confident that there will be no finding of wrongdoing by American,” the airline said.

Southwest said they had been notified about the investigation and were fully cooperating.

The three remaining airlines did not return USA Today’s request for comment.

U.S. DOT Requests Information on Airline Pricing Response to Amtrak Derailment [DOT]
DOT to investigate airlines for gouging after Amtrak crash [USA Today]

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