The U.S. Transportation Department has opened a price-gouging investigation against five major U.S. airlines to determine whether the companies inflated flight prices shortly after an Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, according to multiple reports.
The US Transportation Department sent letters to five US carriers – American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue – inquiring about airfare prices for destinations affected by the train crash. Foxxacknowledged that price fluctuations are common in air travel, but said his department would be examining whether the four airlines took advantage of consumers.
“We have sufficient information to be concerned about it”, Foxx told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “Our inquiry is focused on whether there were unfair practices involved in setting prices at that time”.
In a letter, the Department of Transportation instructed five major airlines to turn over fare records for flights between 11 airports from May 12th to May 17th.
Train service was disabled for one week between New York and Washington as crews worked to clean up and fix the heavily damaged rail line. “We are cooperating with the DOT and are confident there will be no finding of wrongdoing by American”.
Many commuters were stranded for almost a week before Amtrak service returned to normal on May 18 after the derailment of Northeast Regional train No. 188.
Foxx said the investigation comes after Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy contacted the Obama administration with concerns over consumer protection.
This investigation will have to provide a reasonable basis for ticket prices being a computer-automated response to demand, industry consultant Robert Mann said.
Investigators are asking the airlines to provide within 30 days details about fares before and after the crash.
Foxx said the department has authority to investigate unfair trade practices by airlines and put a stop to them.
Delta and American said they added seats to accommodate more passengers, and Delta allowed previously ticketed Amtrak customers fly for free.
Five airlines accused of raising prices after Philadelphia Amtrak derailment