The U.S. Department For Transportation fined budget carrier Allegiant Air for violations of rules on reporting disabled passengers complaints.
The DoT's sanction also concerns violations of price advertising rules. Allegiant published offers on its website's homepage for free flights omitting to mention that taxes and fees would be added.
“We adopted our rules on reporting of disability complaints and advertising of airfares to protect consumers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Protecting the rights of airline passengers is a high priority for DOT, and we will take enforcement action when our rules are violated.”
Allegiant Air sanction comes little over two weeks after another U.S. low cost airline, Spirit, received a fine for failing to respond to complaints filed by disabled passengers.
The Department for Transportation Aviation Enforcement Office found that between 2009 and 2010 Allegiant Air responded to a number of complaints with a phone call rather than in writing as required by the DoT rule.
In addition to the first violation, the budget airline failed to record all of the disability complaints it received. Because of the failure to file complaints, Allegiant also failed to classify and account for all the issues that were raised in the complaints.
"It’s important to note that the DOT did not identify any deficiencies in our accommodation of passengers during their travel experience,"Maury Gallagher, Allegiant Chairman and CEO, said in a note to employees. "We have always been, and will always remain, committed to meeting the needs of passengers with disabilities."
"Instead, the DOT chose to fine us for resolving a modest number of passenger complaints with a personal phone call, often as requested by the passenger, instead of a letter, as directed by the DOT," Maury Gallagher added. "While we must comply with regulations, we stand by the good-faith efforts of our customer service team to honor our customers’ wishes and resolve their issues through a personal conversation."
Allegiant Air operates a No Frills business model remarkably similar to Ryanair The Irish budget airline was so fond of Allegiant's business plan it bought 10.24% of the U.S. carrier's share in 2005.
Ryanair later sold their stake in Allegiant Air, claiming a return of 5 times the initial investment within 18 months.
In the United Kingdom, the Civil Aviation Authority is the enforcement body for the regulation protecting the rights of disabled passengers. However, the CAA does not have civil enforcement powers; therefore there is not a system of administrative fines in place. The CAA has extremely limited criminal enforcement powers which are yet to be tested.