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Southwest fined $200,000 over airfare sales

DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines Co. agreed to a $200,000 fine for running fare sales this year but not having enough seats — or in one case, not having any seats at all — at the advertised price.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that Southwest engaged in deceptive practices and violated federal rules on airfare advertising.

The penalty could drop to $100,000 if Southwest goes a year without breaking the rules again.

The government said that it investigated after a consumer complained about "The Luv a Fare Sale" — Southwest used to call itself "the luv airline," and LUV is its stock market ticker symbol.

Federal rules require airlines to set aside a "reasonable" number of seats on enough routes when they advertise a sale. The Transportation Department said that when it investigated the Feb. 14 offer touting one-way, nonstop fares for $100 or less, it found that some routes had few seats at those prices; only 1 percent of seats between Minneapolis and Phoenix, and 2 percent between Las Vegas and Atlanta.

On Jan. 30, Southwest advertised $66 one-way March fares from Dallas to Branson, Mo., but had no seats at the touted price on any day covered by the sale, the department said.

In a consent order, Southwest said the "Luv a Fare Sale" was available on 786 routes covering 79 percent of the airline's network and sold out in fewer than 10 percent of them. The airline said the lack of Dallas-Branson sale seats was caused by technical glitches that have been fixed.


The consent order can be found at www.regulations.gov under docket number DOT-OST-2013-0004.