A hotel at Kennedy Airport gouged customers out of $48,000 by inflating room rates during a heavy snowstorm in January 2016, the state attorney general said Monday.
The Courtyard by Marriott New York JFK Airport Hotel agreed to make restitution in that amount and pay a $17,500 civil penalty, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a news release.
Over a four-day period beginning Jan. 22, the hotel boosted daily room rates — normally $99 to $209 — by 45 percent to 75 percent, Schneiderman said.
The settlement agreement cited one example where a guest paid $499 for a room that went for $154 on the same day of the week before.
The state’s General Business Law forbids excessive price hikes for essential goods and services — such as shelter, transportation, food, water and gasoline — during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the marketplace, Schneiderman said.
“The Courtyard by Marriott took advantage of hundreds of stranded people who were simply seeking the safety of shelter during and after this massive blizzard,” Schneiderman said.
The holding company that operates the hotel could not be reached for comment and Marriott said in a statement that it does not make pricing decisions for its franchisees and operators.
“While franchisees/operators remain free to set their prices, the Marriott guidelines for all hotels prohibit hotels from raising rates during times of disaster in excess of normal retail rates sold within the preceding 30 days, even when such disasters generate significant demand,” a spokesman said in an email statement.
Weather data show 30.5 inches of snow was dumped on JFK Airport on Jan. 23, 2016.
Because of flight cancellations and a local travel ban, hotel airports in New York City were filled with stranded passengers and travelers, Schneiderman said.
The settlement agreement said the hotel accepted the restitution and fine without admitting to the state’s allegations.