Saudia started flying Los Angeles – Jeddah this year, three days a week.
That’s great because they’re a Delta partner, and they are among the airlines offering the most award space of any in the world. Want to take a whole family from the US to India in business class using Delta miles? Saudia is your play.
The Department of Transportation, though, recently won a (cough) victory for consumers.
- The US and Saudi Arabia has an Open Skies agreement.
- Normally a foreign carrier needs Department of Transportation approval to operate a route to the US
- The Open Skies Agreement exempts Saudia from this requirement.
- But a 1997 DOT regulation says that an airline exempt from the requirement must obtain an exemption from the DOT before advertising and selling tickets on the route.
Saudia apparently didn’t know about this requirement. They found out about it, and applied for and received the exemption (that they were entitled to) prior to commencing service.
But they had publicized the service and even sold tickets before the DOT granted the exemption that the Open Skies Agreement provided to Saudia.
See, Saudia doesn’t need DOT permission. But they need the DOT’s permission to not seek permission.
As a result, the Department of Transportation and Saudia have agreed on a $50,000 fine — $25,000 payable now, and $25,000 forgiven if the airline behaves itself for the next year.
The notion of ‘prioritizing enforcement’ has been much in the news lately. Apparently that news hasn’t yet filtered down to the DOT.