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American Airlines fined for failing to disclose voucher fee

February 28, 2011 | 11:38 am

AmericanOntario The U.S. Department of Transportation fined American Airlines $90,000 for failing to disclose a fee for using flight vouchers.

The federal agency said the airline offered the vouchers to passengers who voluntarily gave up seats on overbooked flights.

But American didn't tell passengers that they must pay a $30 ticketing fee to redeem the vouchers by telephone or at airport ticket counters. The airline also didn't disclose that the vouchers could not be redeemed on the carrier’s Internet site.

Airlines are allowed to oversell flights because a percentage of passengers usually cancel at the last minute. But airlines must offer compensation to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats.

American eliminated the fees for using the voucher to buy tickets over the phone about four years ago. But the carrier did not disclose that passengers who want to use the vouchers over the phone must mail the voucher to the carrier as much as three weeks before the departure date.

Until late last year, the airline continued to charge a fee for tickets purchased at airport counters, and even now passengers cannot use the vouchers to buy tickets online.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: The counter for American Airlines at LA/Ontario International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times