Indian national flag carrier Air India agreed to pay American authorities thousands of dollars for “violation of the Department’s new airline consumer rules that took effect Aug. 23, 2011” according to a US Department of Transportation (DOT) statement issued May 3.

In a statement, the DOT said it had “assessed a civil penalty of $80,000 against Air India for failing to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on its website as well as failing to adequately inform passengers about its optional fees.”

Air India argued that, “while it had uploaded its tarmac delay and customer service plans to its website, they apparently did not properly appear due to a technical problem that had to be repaired.”

Citing its policy of not charging extra for services like “carry-on bags, first and second checked bags, advanced seat selection, and on-board meals and beverages,” Air India claimed a misunderstanding with the notifications. The defaulting carrier said, “the additional charges for these services have always been easy to locate on Air India’s website under “Before You Fly – Baggage.”

Air India, in its concluding argument, said, “fixing the website was delayed by the unfortunate and unexpected death of the employee responsible for making the changes.”

According to the “Consent Order,” the US Enforcement Office continued “to believe that enforcement action is warranted,” but both “reached a settlement of this matter in order to avoid litigation.”

In the order signed by Rosalind Knapp, Deputy General Counsel, DOT, the Indian carrier agreed to pay $80,000, “in compromise of potential civil penalties otherwise due and payable.”

Commenting on the imposition of the penalty, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Our new airline consumer rules help ensure that passengers are fully informed about airline services and fees and what to expect if their flight is delayed on the tarmac.”

“We will continue to monitor carriers to make sure they comply with our rules and take enforcement action when they do not,” added LaHood. (IATNS)


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