Delta subsidiary Comair has been fined $275,000 for violations of the Department of Transportation's (DOT) involuntary bumping policy. In a statement, the DOT said it began looking into Comair after numerous complaints came into the agency's Aviation Enforcement Office. According to the statement, "The investigation involved a review of bumping complaints sent to Comair by consumers, as well as an inspection at the carrier’s headquarters of its consumer complaint records and its policies and practices for oversold flights."
In explaining its conclusion and fine, the DOT said, "The investigation revealed numerous cases in which Comair failed to solicit volunteers to leave overbooked flights and provide passengers with the appropriate denied boarding compensation. The Aviation Enforcement Office also found that Comair had filed inaccurate reports with DOT on the number of passengers involuntarily denied boarding."
The $275,000 sum is one of the largest fines ever for a consumer protection issue, though it falls a full $100,000 short of the DOT's $375,000 fine against Spirit last year. It is, however, almost $100,000 more than a fine for similar infractions against Southwest this past April. Dollar amounts aside, this latest penalty solidifies the trend of harsh punishment against airlines that defy DOT consumer protections rules. And with more and stricter rules looming, it seems likely we'll see more stiff fines levied against airlines in the coming years.
Delta claims that it and its regional affiliates operate within the DOT's policy, though obviously Comair stepped out of bounds on enough occasions to warrant the fine.