May 29, 2014 / 7:07 PM / in 4 years

U.S. fines Southwest $300,000 over price advertising rule violations

* October 2013 fare sale triggers fine

* Carrier cites error in advertisement

May 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Transportation said on Thursday it had fined Southwest Airlines a total of $300,000 for advertising low airfares for which no seats were available.

A fine of $200,000 stemmed from October 2013 television ads in the Atlanta area that touted $59 fares for flights to Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. The federal agency said its enforcement office found that no seats were available at that price between Atlanta and those cities on the specified dates.

“By advertising fares for which no seats were available at all, Southwest violated the full fare advertising rule and engaged in prohibited unfair and deceptive practices,” the department said in a statement.

Southwest cited an advertising error in the fare sale. “Unfortunately, the audio portion of the TV advertisement incorrectly stated three cities that were never intended to be a part of the $59 sale (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago),” spokesman Brad Hawkins said in a statement. “As soon as we became aware of our mistake, we pulled all incorrect advertisements off the air.”

Hawkins also said Southwest honored the $59 ticket price to the three cities for travelers who requested it after the error was found.

The DOT noted that the latest violation triggered an additional penalty of $100,000 for Southwest over an order from July 2013 tied to the federal rule stipulating that any ads state the entire ticket price. Since Southwest violated the same rule within a year, it was obligated to pay half of the penalty from the prior order which had been suspended, the agency said.

Southwest shares were down 0.1 percent to $26.40 in afternoon trading. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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