$59 Southwest Airlines fares were too good to be true - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

$59 Southwest Airlines fares were too good to be true

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Southwest Airlines is known for its low fare commercials, but it turns out one commercial was all talk and the U.S. Department of Transportation fined Southwest $200,000 for it.

“False advertisement is not good either way. That’s terrible,” said Katie Sheridan, who was flying Southwest at Midway Airport. “They certainly shouldn’t be doing that."

And the feds agree. They said an October 2013 commercial in Atlanta promoted $59 flights to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The problem? Southwest apparently did not have any seats available for $59 between Atlanta and any of the cities mentioned on any of the applicable travel dates.

FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis reports an audio portion of the TV ad incorrectly stated three cities that were never intended to be a part of the $59 sale. As soon as Southwest became aware of the mistake, they pulled all incorrect ads of the air.

“This hurts for Southwest. They’ve been caught red-handed with some advertising deception. It hurts their reputation of a low cost fare leader and it shows the federal government is getting really impatient with some of the advertising,” said DePaul University Professor Joe Schwieterman, an authority on transportation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said,“Consumers have rights and the Department of Transportation will continue to take enforcement action against carriers an ticket agents when our price advertising rules are violated.”

“Now a days people can click instantly. They see the ad, they click, they don’t see the fare, it’s harder for airlines to justify ads when consumers feel that frustration,” said Schwieterman.

Southwest Airlines said, “Despite our error, the sale offered substantial discounts in over 500 city pairs throughout Southwest’s system. Collectively, more than 300,000 consumers saved millions of dollars by taking advantage of the ATL fare sale. Once we discovered the error, we did honor the $59 fare for those consumers who called reservations requesting the $59 price point for those three markets.”

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