Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Airlines set rules for better passenger protections

The U. S. Department of Transportation has expanded protections for airline passengers, building on the 2009 rules which stated domestic flights could not remain on the tarmac for more than three hours.
Here’s a summary of rules announced in April which will go into effect in 120 days:
Lost bags and bag fees. Airlines are required to reimburse passengers for any bag fees if their bags are lost. Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners.
Bumping. Involuntarily bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the price of their tickets up to $650 (increased from $400), while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the value of their tickets, up to $1,300. Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years.
Delays. The existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays is extended to cover foreign airlines’ operations at U.S. airports and establishes a four hour hard time limit on tarmac delays for international flights of U.S. and foreign airlines, with exceptions allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. Passengers stuck on the tarmac must be provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and medical treatment.

Full disclosure of additional fees. Airlines will have to prominently disclose all potential fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, government taxes, and advanced or upgraded seating.
“Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly,” said Secretary LaHood. “It’s just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed. The additional passenger protections we’re announcing today will help make sure air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve.”
The Department of Transportation’s rules will make air travel simpler and easier in a number of other ways, including:
-Requiring airlines to allow reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
-Requiring airlines to promptly notify consumers of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions. This notification must take place in the boarding gate area, on a carrier’s telephone reservation system and on its website.
-Banning post-purchase fare increases unless they are due to government-imposed taxes or fees, and only if the passenger is notified of and agrees to the potential increase at the time of sale.
-Requiring more airlines to report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports with DOT, including data for international flights and charter flights. Previously, only the 16 largest U.S. passenger carriers were required to file this data, and only for domestic scheduled flights.
Information provided by U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington DC

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