Airline Passengers get new Bill of Rights Aimed at Friendlier Skies

 @ibtimes
on August 24 2011 3:32 PM

(f4aviation.co.uk)
(f4aviation.co.uk)

On Tuesday, August 23rd, new airline rules went into effect that will better inform ticket buyers what exactly they are paying for. As of Tuesday, airlines were required to prominently disclose all optional fees on their Web sites, including costs for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating.

The Department of Transportation says these new rules are in response to the continued consumer complaints regarding online price comparison and ticket shopping.

While these new regulations are an improvement for thrifty travelers, major carriers are not so enthused. Companies like American Airlines, Continental and United Airlines have all changed their Web site format, but shoppers may still have a hard time distinguishing the airline jargon surrounding the information.

Another new rule, active Tuesday, increases the compensation for being involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight. Passengers are now eligible for double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $650, for short delays -- within one to two hours of the originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights, and one to four hours for international flights.

Passengers who face longer delays can receive payments of up to four times the one-way value of their tickets, with a maximum payment of $1,300. Inflation adjustments will be made to the compensation limits every two years.

Also, the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays was extended to cover international flights of foreign airlines at U.S. airports, while establishing a hard, four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports.

The rule expands the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights, currently in place only at large-hub and medium-hub airports, to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports as well. Airlines who fail to meet these new time restriction can be slapped with hefty fines and penalties.

In all cases, exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air-traffic control-related reasons. Carriers must also ensure that

(ntl.bts.gov)
(ntl.bts.gov)

passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.

Finally, airlines will now be required to refund your checked baggage fee for any lost, damaged or delayed luggage, on top of a previous requirement for compensation.

These are just the beginning of a new set of rules designed to aid fliers that will take full effect next January. These include:

  • Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
  • Banning post-purchase price increases.
  • Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight's departure date.
  • Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
  • Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger's journey.
  • Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
  • Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions
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