FINE

A tourism insider changes his mind about Mexico

Mexico doesn’t need any more bad press. Between drug violence and natural disasters, it’s had enough, thanks very much.

All of which makes Dave Dudar’s story so difficult for him to tell — and for me to write.

Dudar has been a frequent visitor to Cancun since 1998. He’s also worked in the tourism industry as a former marketing official for Meet College Park Georgia, the convention and visitors bureau for the Georgia city that houses Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as with Vail Resorts and United Airlines.

“This is the fourth time I have rented a car in this country in four years,” he told me.

It is probably the last.
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Federal government wraps up quiet year for traveler protections

Government fines against airlines for consumer rule violations are on track to hit a six-year low as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s enforcement actions shift from punishment to preventing infractions. With only a few weeks left in 2014, the DOT has issued 23 consent orders that assess $2.6 million in penalties — $4.5 million less than last year. That’s the same number as in 2009.
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Who really benefits when airlines are penalized?

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation fined seven airlines a total of $1.7 million last year for violating its controversial tarmac-delay rule, most of it went straight to the U.S. Treasury. Why isn’t the money awarded to the passengers who sat on planes for hours before taking off?
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Government set record for airline fines in 2012 — is that good news for passengers?

vapor trailA more activist Transportation Department, which set a record in 2011 for the number of fines it issued against airlines for violating aviation consumer protection rules, appears to have maintained its momentum this past year.

In 2012, the Department issued 49 fines for consumer rule violations and assessed $3,610,000 in penalties, exceeding the previous record of 47 fines and $3,264,000 in penalties issued in 2011.

Among its most significant actions: policing new rules that require airlines and travel agencies to quote a full fare and disclose baggage fees, and fining the first foreign airline for a tarmac delay.

“Consumers deserve to be treated fairly when they fly,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called protecting air travelers’ rights “a high priority.”
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TSA threatens to fine passenger who refuses full-body scan

As the TSA’s use of full-body scanners turns into a national debate, it appears the agency is taking a harder line against passengers who resist.

Last week, TSA agents in Florida allegedly handcuffed a passenger to her chair after she refused both a full-body scan and a pat-down. (Surveillance video of the incident called parts of her story into question.)

And yesterday, a traveler at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who declined the full-body scan and agreed to be frisked, but complained about the invasive procedure, was threatened with a fine.

It happened to Karen Cummings, the same woman who received an enhanced pat-down when it was being tested in Boston this spring.

If the threat against her is part of TSA’s new enhanced pat-down protocol, then this is a troubling shift in policy that is only likely to intensify the discussion about the use of full-body scanners.
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Travel agency whacked with $200,000 fine for offering “free” flights with Sandals vacations

The best things in life may be free, but that apparently doesn’t extend to the airfare on your all-inclusive vacation, at least according to the government.

The Transportation Department this morning fined Unique Vacations $200,000 for promoting “free” airfares in connection with its Sandals packages, when, in fact, customers would sometimes be required to pay airline fuel surcharges.

Here’s the consent order (PDF).

That’s illegal, says the government. Any advertising that states a price for air transportation or an air tour is considered to be an unfair or deceptive practice unless the price stated is the entire price to be paid by the customer to the air carrier or ticket agent for such air transportation, tour or tour component, according to the Transportation Department.
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