The U.S. Transportation Department has fined cash-strapped $80,000 for failing to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on the carrier’s website, as well as failing to adequately inform passengers about its optional fees.
The first penalty was assessed for a violation of the department’s new airline consumer rules that took effect Aug. 23, 2011.
“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,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says. “We will continue to monitor carriers to make sure they comply with our rules and take enforcement action when they do not.”
Under the rule, foreign carriers operating in the U.S. with at least one 30-seat-or-above aircraft are required to adopt contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays as well as customer service plans, and to post these plans on their websites. U.S. carriers have been covered by this requirement since April 29, 2010, the department says.
In addition, U.S. and foreign carriers with websites that sell tickets to U.S. consumers have been required to include on their homepages a prominent hyperlink that takes viewers directly to a page that shows all fees for optional services including baggage charges, the department notes. Air India failed to comply by the required date, it adds.
Air India officials were not available for comment.
The Indian government recently stated that as per the provisional estimates for fiscal 2011-12, Air India is likely to lose 78.53 billion rupees ($1.48 billion). The carrier has a total debt of nearly 450 billion rupees.
Separately, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh says Air India owes 1.24 billion rupees ($23.4 million) to its employees in salary arrears for March 2012. The national carrier paid all its employees until February and has shown an uptick in cash flow in recent months, Singh told Parliament on May 4. The airline is continuing to cut costs to improve financial performance, he says.
Air India will receive a fresh government equity infusion as part of its turnaround and financial restructuring plan. “With these improved financials,” the airline intends to resume timely salary disbursements, he adds.