Spirit fined for breaking several consumer regulations

By Michael Fabey

The Transportation Department on Thursday assessed a $375,000 civil penalty against Spirit Airlines for violating DOT consumer regulations for denied-boarding compensation, fare advertising and baggage liability.

Spirit must pay $215,000 of the penalty in four equal payments between Oct. 1 and June 30. The airline will have to pay the remaining $160,000 in a year if it continues to violate the regulations.

The civil penalty to be paid is a record for these kinds of violations, the DOT said.

The DOT found that Spirit bumped passengers from oversold flights but did not provide compensation or a written notice of their rights to compensation, as required by DOT rules.

The investigation also revealed that Spirit failed to resolve baggage claims within a reasonable period, on one occasion taking 14 months to provide compensation.

Plus, Spirit violated DOT rules by providing compensation for delayed baggage only for the outbound leg of roundtrip flights and only for purchases made more than 24 hours after arrival.

In addition, Spirit violated baggage-liability laws governing international travel by refusing to accept responsibility for missing laptops and certain other items it accepted as baggage.

And Spirit violated DOT rules requiring fare ads to state the full price to be paid. The DOT said Spirit omitted carrier-imposed fees from the base fare in the ad. It also failed to make available on request a copy of the DOT's rule prohibiting discrimination against disabled passengers.

The DOT also cited Spirit for referring to DOT and Federal Aviation Administration regulations when responding to consumer complaints even though the complaints did not concern DOT or FAA rules.

In other violations, Spirit failed to retain copies of consumer complaints and failed to file required reports in a timely manner.

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