Fines against airlines have fallen to their lowest levels since 2001, even as passenger complaints have risen. DOT filed just 20 cases against airlines and travel companies last year, compared to an average of 31 cases for the previous five years. Fines were down too, totaling $1.2 million in 2008, versus $4.3 million for the five-year average. A DOT official said fines were lower due to "the nature of the enforcement cases" -- in other words, the infractions in 2008 were less severe than in previous years.

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