Delta Air Lines, United Airlines fined by US Department of Transportation

Friday, July 10, 2009, 9:17 by Aviation Correspondent

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, Georgia, the United States, $375,000 for “improperly bumping” passengers on oversold planes. The fine imposed by the Department of Transportation includes a stipulation that Delta Air Lines can put $200,000 out of the $375,000 towards “extra consumer protections above and beyond federal disclosure rules related to oversales.”

In another instance, the Department of Transportation fined the United States-based United Airlines $80,000 for “not having disclosed to passengers which other airlines it has codeshare agreements with.”

The United States federal rules stipulate that airlines inform passengers of the codeshares and alliances they have with other airlines.

Delta Air Lines, the biggest airline in the world, failed to follow the regulation of the US Department of Transportation to seek volunteers to give up seats, failed to tell bumped passengers why they were chosen, as well as failed to compensate passengers with $800 in a “number of instances’’ between January 20008 and July 2008.

(Those passengers who are “involuntarily bumped” from oversold flights are entitled to a compensation of up to $800).

The Department of Transportation said in a statement that Delta Air Lines used to “invite customers on oversold flights to volunteer and bid on compensation that they will be willing to accept in exchange for seats on other flights.”

United Air Lines, a subsidiary of UAL Corporation, was fined because the carrier did not tell consumers that some flights were operated under a route-sharing pact.

The Department of Transportation said it called United Air Lines’ reservation line in January 2008 to find that agents failed to divulge the route-sharing arrangement in “a considerable number’’ of calls.

United Air Lines – which is a part of the Star Alliance – has partnerships with international carriers such as US Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and Air Canada.

In addition, United Airlines has codeshare agreements with Virgin Blue, Aer Lingus, and Hawaiian Airlines.

United Air Lines explained, in a press release, that it was a “programming error” that made the reservation vendors to skip the disclosures ands that the airline has since taken measures to ensure compliance with the rules of the Department of Transportation.