Southwest Fined For Advertising $59 Seats That Did Not Exist

200px-US-DeptOfTransportation-Seal.svg220px-Boeing_737-2A1_N25SW_Southwest_SAT_17.10.75_edited-2Southwest has been fined again for advertising cheap fares on seats that did not exist. The airline advertised on eight Atlanta stations in which the narrator told viewers, “Discover amazing low sale fares” of $59 “to places like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.” The problem is that, when people went to book the fares, they were told no seats were available.

The airlines insisted that it was simply an oversight and that those cities were not supposed to be part of the offer. However, the $100,000 fine was doubled by the U.S. Department of Transportation because the airlines was suspended after a similar offense last year. The question is how such a small fine truly deters such violations. At $100,000 a pop, an airline could do this intentionally, entice customers in a bait-and-switch, and just pay the fine as a cost of doing business.

Now, to my most recent encounter with the shakedown that customers face every time that they fly. I previously complained in a New York Times article that flying today is like being a guest of the Ferengi as airlines hit customers with fees for everything from bags to seats is a bare minimum of legroom. That image came to mind recently when one of my sons and I were flying on United and ordered the over-priced sandwiches on the flight. It seemed to be at least a reasonable size . . . until we bought them:



It really summed up the approach of airlines today.

38 thoughts on “Southwest Fined For Advertising $59 Seats That Did Not Exist”

  1. David2575: Please explain how you obtained these fares on these tickets. We have time on our hands to learn.

    1. Al – who is this we you speak of? Supposedly you are working in a rent-a-bed motel where you are being paid in kind. You told us you escaped on your own. Have you formed a fondness for one of the ‘hostesses’?

    2. Al Zheimers wrote: “Please explain how you obtained these fares on these tickets. We have time on our hands to learn.”

      Based upon your name, I’m not sure if you will remember this tomorrow. 🙂

      In a nutshell, there is a lot of information to learn via travel blogs. Many websites have fare alerts. To get these kinds of fares, you have to act fast and then plan in advance without many options. Often you do not choose where to go. For example, I was not planning an around the world trip. I was actually putting together a small getaway to Niagara Falls and Toronto when this fare alert came from the Mighty Travels site. Once an alert like this comes up, it is time to visit a blog called FlyerTalk. FlyerTalk is the one site you want to get familiar with. It is big. On FlyerTalk, there many people there who will talk about what they are finding out about the deal. Really good deals usually only last an hour or two. Sometimes a few days. This one lasted a day I think. Further research exposed a fuel dump fare that involved booking one way New York to Venice, then to Rome, then to Milan. After a week, the next leg would be Prague to Tokyo. The fare for all that was only $139. So my next step would be to get myself from Milan to Prague, which turned out to be only a $39 fare. Now to get home, I use points. I also use points for all my hotel stays, most of the time being top of the line five star hotels. The way you get points is to use credit card offers that give you bonus points, often as much as 100,000 points. There is risk involved in that you book part of the trip first to get the deal without any clear knowledge of how you will work out the rest of the trip. Also, you have to wait until the deal goes all the way through, because sometimes the mistake fares are not honored and you end up with a refund in a few days. Most of the time, though, the airline honors the deal. I had to wait about a week after purchasing this last cheap fare before I knew I could start booking the rest of the trip. In this particular case, the only place I had never been was Prague, so I had some comfort level by having knowledge of the places on my destination. Most people do not want to go through the hassle of booking trips like this, so they pay full fare while I take advantage of the discounts to travel for less money. There are some people out there who have no home. They travel the world many times over, always living in hotels, and doing this at a below poverty level income for the year. If you have a good credit history and are smart and willing to work the system, it is amazing how cheap travel can end up being.

  2. It is now $200 to change a return ticket (or any ticket.) Want to leave a few hours earlier, your ticket is now effectively; worthless since a good number of fares are worth less than $200 one way. It is a horrible business model. I empathize with Professor Turley. It is mind-numbing when one is ripped off for a product to begin with, with an exorbitant cost, that the purveyor must take the next step to rip you off further, in this instance short-portioining and hiding it. What does it save them? Maybe $0.20 on a $9.00 sandwich that already has an 85% margin? It is insidious. Who thinks this stuff up? Are we minting MBA’s that fomenting these business practices and making standardizing them? What were formerly the standard-bearers of our economy such as banks are now behaving like loan sharks and charging twit o three times what were historically usurious rates. Chalk much of this up to the the natural process of capitalism, that requires consolidation to oligopolies in major industries, leaving the public with little or no choice.

  3. Kraaken, It’s insane. But, I have the ideal situation. My wife’s family have season tickets and I get to go to 2-3 games a year. Rugby is getting big around here. It’s a great sport. Never played, but my brother did @ Villanova. I have partaken in the after game drinking and singing.

  4. Nick, Green Bay is the only place I’ve ever been where even the fire plugs are painted green and gold.There is a twenty year wait, I understand, to get season tickets, and the ticket holders pass them in their wills. I mean, I’m a fanatic when it comes to Irish Rugby, but there’s a difference between fanatic and rabid! 🙂

  5. Kraaken, Packers are a religion up here. I’m a fan, but not w/ religious zeal.

  6. Happy anniversary, David. I would love to hear about it when you get back.

  7. Nick, no, I’m not a Packer fan. My other half lives in Green Bay (to which I will hopefully be moving in the near future). I realize that that is apostasy (especially to him), but I follow Rugby Union. 🙂

  8. Nick Spinelli

    davidm, What a trip. There is no better education than travel.
    Assuming they are the same of course.

    Born to run = born to be educated.

  9. davidm, What a trip. There is no better education than travel.

    1. Nick Spinelli wrote: “There is no better education than travel.”

      Right? That’s what I think. Last year we took the whole family around the world, but we headed west on that trip. This around the world trip will be celebrating the 30th wedding anniversary for my wife and I, so we will leave the kids behind.

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