The plaintiffs in this case (DC Docket No 0:12-cv-61528-RNS) alleges Spirit Airlines conducted an enterprise by means of racketeering activity through mail and wire fraud involving the concealment and misrepresentation of airfares and user fees. That the carrier would offer cheap airfares and then tack on high baggage fees and other passenger fees resulting in a much higher ticket price then advertised.
The plaintiffs in the case believed that the very law that brought down organized crime bosses (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. 18 U.S.C.§§ 1961-68) could be used to go after Spirit Airlines and its ticket pricing tactics through “predicate acts of mail and wire fraud involving the concealment and misrepresentation of airfares and user fees.”
And the plaintiffs in the suit are Spirit Airlines passengers. The lawsuit was filed against the carrier under the RICO Act alleging it was deceptive with its ticket prices. Although the case was thrown out in Florida’s district court, the lawsuit was appealed in Florida’s District Appeals Court where it was vacated and remanded for trial.
The Business Travel Coalition offered this analysis: The lawsuit against the Spirit Airlines under the RICO Act would seem to illuminate the now 7-year long financial harm consumers have been enduring since airlines began unbundling their products and obfuscating the all-in price of air travel options. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) needs to act now and issue a rule on ancillary fees (e.g., for checked and carry-on baggage and paid seat assignments) so that consumers can see, compare and buy them in the same transaction as the base fare.
In May of this year DOT published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding consumer protections. BTC has concluded that the long awaited rule on the transparency of ancillary fees and the transactability of such fees is at significant risk of being delayed. DOT’s ancillary fee proposal is just one of many within this sweeping NPRM.
After three years of comments, studies and reviews by DOT as well as the Office of Management and Budget the ancillary-fee record is complete. However, the record on the other complex and controversial DOT proposals in the NPRM, such as prescribing detailed customer service standards for large travel agencies, is virtually non-existent.
The concern is that the ancillary-fee rule may well become entangled with a raft of knotty issues arising from the other proposals — consequently pushing a decision on ancillary fees deep into 2015, or even halting the process indefinitely. For that reason, BTC and consumer groups have urged DOT to move forward promptly with the ancillary fee rule and to take the time necessary to consider the newly-raised and unvetted possible rules on other topics.