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Final provisions of airline passenger protections take effect

Consumer Reports News: January 24, 2012 02:08 PM

Good news for air travelers this week, as new rules protecting airline passengers go into effect. The U.S. Department of Transportation's airline passenger protection requirements taking effect this week are the final provisions from the DOT's recent airline consumer rule.

The latest requirements mean that airlines (and other ticket sellers) must disclose all fees associated with ticket prices upfront, and that all fees and taxes be included in advertising.

Other provisions going into effect this week mean that airlines must:

  • Promptly notify passengers if a flight is cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes. Notification could include cell phone alerts, website updates, or an announcement at the check-in counter.
  • Let customers cancel reservations without penalty for at least 24 hours if they are made at least one week before the scheduled flight.
  • Apply the same baggage fees and allowances throughout a trip, and disclose baggage fees specifically when booking and during e-ticket confirmation.
  • Not raise a fare after a ticket has been bought, unless due to increased government taxes and fees.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the following in a statement to the press:

Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly. The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.

A number of other requirements under the DOT rule took effect in August 2011, including:

  • If a U.S. or international flight sits on the tarmac for more than four hours the DOT can impose fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.
  • Passengers bumped from an oversold flight must be compensated double the price of the purchased ticket (up to $650), unless the airline gets them to their destination within a few hours. If the arrival time of bumped travelers is delayed by more than a few hours it would mean payments of four times the value of a ticket, up to $1,300.
  • Airlines must prominently display all fees on their websites, including fees for checked bags, in-flight meals and cancelled reservations. As we reported in Best & Worst Airlines, the proliferation of fees has been a major source of aggravation to airline passengers.

The DOT is also looking at other airline consumer protection measures for a possible future rulemaking, including requiring that all airline optional fees be disclosed wherever consumers can book a flight, strengthening disclosure of code-share flights, and requiring additional carriers to file on-time performance reports.

Through our participation on the DOT’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee and the public comments we filed in response to the department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports supported many of these measures.

New aviation consumer protections take effect this week [DOT]
Consumers Union Presses for Air Travel Improvements as Committee Makes Recommendations to Dept. of Transportation [Consumers Union]

Maggie Shader

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