The US Department of Transportation (DOT) says it has fined Alaska Airlines (AS, Seattle Tacoma Int'l), American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth), United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare), and Southwest Airlines (WN, Dallas Love Field) for providing inaccurate information to passengers about how much compensation they could potentially receive for being denied boarding against their will, or “bumped” on oversold flights, and for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage.

The orders come after the DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings conducted a series of inspections, dubbed “Task Force Lightning,” at airports around the United States. During these inspections, the Department says it found that Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines had failed to provide passengers with the required notices or provided notices that were incomplete, outdated, or contained inaccurate information.

As such, Alaska Airlines was fined USD40,000, American Airlines was fined USD45,000, Southwest Airlines was fined USD40,000, and United Airlines was fined USD35,000. The airlines were also ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations, the DOT said.

According to the Department its rules state that passengers are eligible for compensation when they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight, the amount of which varies based on several factors including the planned arrival time of the substitute transportation arranged (or offered to be arranged).

"Air carriers must immediately provide passengers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight with a written statement explaining the terms, conditions, and limitations of denied boarding compensation, and describing the carriers’ boarding priority rules and criteria," it said. "Carriers must also provide the statement to any person upon request at all airport ticket selling positions, and at all boarding locations being used by the carrier."

DOT rules also prohibit US airlines from limiting their liability for direct or consequential monetary damages that are reasonable, actual, and verifiable resulting from the loss of, damage to, or delay in delivering a passenger’s baggage in domestic transportation to an amount less than USD3,500. Carriers are also required to provide passengers with proper notice of the baggage liability limit on or with their tickets.