Transportation Dept. Investigating Major Airlines for Price Gouging after Amtrak Crash

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Following May’s deadly Amtrak crash that disrupted rail service in the Northeast, several airlines may have tried gouging customers who were forced to purchase plane tickets, and the federal government is investigating the matter.


The Transportation Department is now looking into the pricing of tickets by American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United after the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. Many travelers complained of “irregular fares,” with some tickets costing $1,000. Airlines were sent a letter by the Department of Transportation seeking pricing information on various routes.


Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement: “The idea that any business would seek to take advantage of stranded rail passengers in the wake of such a tragic event is unacceptable.” Foxx said his agency “takes all allegations of airline price-gouging seriously, and we will pursue a thorough investigation of these consumer complaints.”


The investigation is unusual for the agency, which hasn’t played a strong role in airline regulation since changes in federal law approved in the 1970s. “We have not investigated an airline for this type of conduct in at least the last 12 years, if ever,” a department spokeswoman said in an email to The Washington Post.


The investigation will look at flights between Washington and Boston, including six of the nation’s 20 busiest airports.


Officials with the airlines denied wrongdoing, saying they didn’t raise prices. In general, airline tickets booked shortly before travel do cost more than those purchased farther in advance, which could account for some of the high prices travelers paid when they had to change their plans at the last minute.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. To Investigate Airlines for Price Gouging after Amtrak Crash (by Thad Moore, Washington Post)

Feds Investigating 5 Airlines For Possible Price Gouging After Deadly Amtrak Crash (by Michael Lindenberger, Dallas Morning News)

DOT Letter To Four U.S. Airlines Re: Possible Price-Gouging (by Michael Lindenberger, Scribd)

Justice Dept. Investigates Airline Price Fixing (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The Amtrak Crash: a Preventable Tragedy (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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