(CN) – The U.S. Transportation Department is investigating whether five airlines bumped up airfares in the Northeast after a deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia on May 12 disrupted rail service.
On Friday morning, the DOT released a copy of the letter it’s sent to the five airlines – Delta, American, United, Southwest and JetBlue — seeking pricing information for air travel routes most likely affected by the temporary shutdown of trains along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
“The idea that any business would seek to take advantage of stranded rail passengers in the wake of such a tragic event is unacceptable,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Foxx said the investigation was begun in the wake of numerous complaints from consumers about the “irregular” fares they were subject to after the crash.
“This department takes all allegations of airline price-gouging seriously, and we will pursue a thorough investigation of these consumer complaints,” Foxx said.
The department is exploring whether the price hikes violated federal regulations prohibiting airlines from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.
Eight people were killed and about 200 were injured in the crash. Amtrak service was suspended along the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Washington D.C. until May 18.
Regional rail traffic was also affected, with New Jersey Transit suspending service between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, N.J. until May 15, and SEPTA Regional Rail suspending service on its Trenton and Chestnut Hill lines until May 18.
Investigators have said the immediate cause of the crash was the acceleration of the train to 106 miles per hour as it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. The reason for that acceleration is still unknown.
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