Last updated: 10:10 PM ET, Sun July 26 2015

DOT Investigating Airlines For Price Gouging

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | July 24, 2015

DOT Investigating Airlines For Price Gouging

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

In a shocking development today, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department is opening an investigation of five domestic airlines over allegations the carriers inflated airfare prices following the May crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia.

The airlines are American, Delta, United, Southwest and JetBlue. Each received a formal letter from the DOT today.

The derailment, which killed eight, shut down the New York-Washington train service – one of the most-used rail routes in the world – for days.

“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 in a statement. “This department takes all allegations of airline price-gouging seriously and we will pursue a thorough investigation of these consumer complaints.”

The investigation, separate from the previously announced Department of Justice investigation into airline collusion, came at the behest of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who asked the DOT to probe potential price-gouging.

RELATED: Watch Mark Murphy talk DOT, DOJ investigations on Fox Business.

In the letters to the airlines, the DOT is asking for:

• average fare by day, market and fare class offered between April 26 and May 28, as well as number of tickets purchased, number of passengers carried and the same information for the same time period a year prior;

• an explanation of any increases in average fare;

• whether the airline ever initiated conversations with other carriers about passenger demand, fares, flight frequencies or equipment in relation to the derailment of the Amtrak train;

• copies of any communications between airlines about the Amtrak tragedy;

• whether the airline received any consumer complaints about airfares on routes affected by the derailment, among other requests.

Three of the five airlines have acknowledged receiving the letters and responded with statements.

Southwest said it would cooperate with the investigation.

American told the Dallas Morning News that it added capacity in the wake of the Amtrak derailment and kept its fare structure the same.

Delta said the same, and also said that “Following the May 12 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, Delta Air Lines took steps to ensure affected travelers could affordably and conveniently reach their destinations. Delta did not increase air fares following the crash – to the contrary, Delta lowered its highest Shuttle prices by nearly 50 percent, to about $300 each way, for travel between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. In addition, Delta honored existing Amtrak tickets for travel between Washington, D.C., Boston and New York; waived change fees for travel on Delta Shuttle flights between those markets; and increased seat capacity in the region by adding flights and operating larger aircraft.”

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