One Buck Airfare Sale Cost Frontier Airlines $60,000.00 in Fines
“E ven I’m interested in trying out Frontier at this price! And I’m not the only one, I keep getting a systems busy error message.”
Keri Anderson of Heels First Travel reported in this article that “Frontier Airlines is running a one day $1 airfare sale with limited inventory” where you could fly as a passenger from Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Trenton or the District of Columbia to destinations such as Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami and Orlando for only one dollar — but the total was more like $15.00 when taxes and fees were included.
Travel was valid between Wednesday, September 2, 2015 through Wednesday, September 16, 2015; and Tuesday, September 8, 2015 was a blackout date.
This sale received plenty of media attention on BoardingArea — and elsewhere too.
According to this article written by Brad Tuttle for the Money section of Time, “What’s more, as of Thursday morning it looks like all of the $1—er, $15—fares have already been sold out. The cheapest flights listed on Frontier’s site are $29, and after using the promo code 5OFF at checkout, the price drops down to $25. Again, that’s quite a deal for a flight, but it’s not $1.”
This article from WGN-TV News in Chicago proclaimed on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 that “Frontier announced today their “Fly For Only a Buck” sale, a promotion that includes last-minute flights from several cities across the country for only $1 (plus fees).”
One Buck Airfare Sale Cost Frontier Airlines $60,000.00 in Fines
The media and the public were not the only entities which noticed this incredible airfare sale. Officials from the Department of Transportation of the United States noticed as well.
A consent order issued by Blane Workie — who is the assistant general counsel for aviation enforcement and proceedings — on Friday, December 9, 2016 announced that “This order concerns violations by Frontier Airlines, Inc. (Frontier) of the full-fare advertising rule, 14 CFR 399.84(a), and the statutory prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices, 49 U.S.C. § 41712. It directs Frontier to cease and desist from future similar violations and assesses the carrier $60,000 in civil penalties.”
The $60,000.00 is a “compromise civil penalty” in lieu of civil penalties which might otherwise be assessed for the violations of which Frontier Airlines is accused.
The one dollar sale was advertised by Frontier Airlines via e-mail messages, social media, and its official Internet web site declaring such headlines in large type as “Today Only: Fly for a Buck” and “Buck Fares to Mexico” to generate interest amongst customers — but with the actual total airfare cost revealed in smaller type, which violated the Prohibition on Deceptive Practices in the Marketing of Airfare to the Public Using the Internet of the Department of Transportation of the United States in 14 CFR 399.84.; as well as 49 U.S.C. § 41712.
“In particular, Frontier has advertised base fares (without taxes and fees) in the same sized font as the total fare inclusive of taxes and fees”, according to the consent order. “In addition, Frontier’s email advertisement is problematic in that the carrier advertises only the base fare (“a buck”) in the email subject line, in violation of the requirement that charges included within the single total price, which may be stated separately, may not be false or misleading and may not be displayed prominently.”
Although charges included within the single total price listed — such as government taxes, for example — may be stated separately or through links or “pop ups” on Internet web sites that display the total price, such charges:
- May not be false or misleading
- May not be displayed prominently
- May not be presented in the same or larger size as the total price, and
- Must provide cost information on a per passenger basis which accurately reflects the cost of the item covered by the charge
Response From Frontier Airlines
The response from Frontier Airlines stated that “it does not believe that its advertisements were false or misleading and that the total, all-in full fare was clearly and accurately displayed, that the advertisements did not hide the full fare or deceive consumers, and that the base fare (without taxes and fees) was not in a font larger than the all-in full fare.”
Frontier Airlines further asserted that “it received no complaints about the fare display in the advertisements at issue”; and that “the reference to ‘Bucks’ was intended to be a reference to the airline’s animal mascot, as evidenced by the pictures of, depending on the advertisement, one or ten ‘Buck’ animals in the advertisements” and not to United States dollars.
In order to avoid litigation and without admitting to committing any violations, Frontier Airlines consented to the issuance of this order to cease and desist from future violations and agreed to implement corrective action immediately after the Department of Transportation advised the airline of its concerns with the advertisements — including:
- Providing additional training to those responsible for content and production of advertisements; and
- Implementing a “double approval” requirement for each advertisement such that two employees of Frontier Airlines must review and approve each advertisement prior to its posting or publication
As I first wrote in this article on Thursday, January 26, 2012, a new rule became effective in which airlines were required by the Department of Transportation to include all mandatory taxes and fees in advertised airfares — and I proclaimed that “I not only say that it is about time, but that this policy was long overdue.”
Airlines infamous for advertising ultra-low airfares such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines — the latter of which advertises so-called “$9.00 airfares” — reportedly filed legal appeals at that time to have the United States Court of Appeals in the Washington, D.C. circuit overturn the rule, claiming that the rule “violates commercial free speech rights.”
Two weeks prior to the sale in question, I had already proclaimed the reasons why I ignore Frontier Airlines Sales — even at $15.00. Alleged deception — whether intentional or not — was not one of those reasons.
That the Department of Transportation is actively engaging in protecting the traveling public by keeping airlines in line with the law to not attempt to deceive consumers is assuring; and you will never see a “one buck” sale advertised by a commercial airline in the United States again.
Now if a similar resolution by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States can be implemented with hotel and resort properties which add resort fees and mandatory facilities fees on guests but do not include them prominently in the total advertised price…
Source: Frontier Airlines.