New Aviation Consumer Protections Take Effect This Week

As posted on January 24, 2012 on http://avstop.com

By Eddy Metcalf

January 24, 2012 - DOT's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement was hard at work in 2011 protecting the interests of the flying public. As part of the final provisions of a rulemaking the Department of Transportation (DOT) made last year, airlines and ticket agents are now required to publish all additional taxes and fees for airfares as well as disclose baggage fees to consumers buying tickets.

In addition to the passenger protections DOT put into place last year, including baggage fee refunds if an airline loses your luggage and increased compensation if you're involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight, new regulations are going into effect this week to further ensure that America's consumers are treated fairly when they travel by air.

DOT’s effort is to make sure that consumers can easily determine the full price for air transportation before travel. Arriving at the airport only to be hit with surprise fees is no way to start a trip. The new protections require that airlines and ticket agents include all mandatory taxes and fees in their published airfares and that they disclose baggage fees when you buy your tickets.

Finally, airlines and ticket agents will generally be prohibited from increasing the price of your ticket after it is bought. The advertising provision takes effect on January 26, while all of the other consumer protections go into effect today.

DOT’s Secretary Ray LaHood said “I’ve said many times that airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly. The protections taking effect this week are another step forward in our ongoing effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve. But we are far from done. 

“We're also looking at other possible measures, including requiring that all optional fees be disclosed wherever consumers can book a flight. It’s simple, we think that treating passengers fairly is the right thing to do.  I’m proud of the work DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement team has done, and I know they will continue working to make flying more convenient and agreeable for our nation's air travelers.”

Also, beginning this week, if you make your reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date, customers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made. 

And, when you're traveling, airlines will be required to promptly notify passengers of flight delays of 30 minutes or more, as well as flight cancellations and diversions.

The rule enhances airline passenger protections by: 

• Requiring airlines and ticket agents to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares and that they disclose baggage fees to consumers buying tickets; 

• Requiring airlines to refund baggage fees if they are lost; 

• Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure; and

• Requiring airlines to promptly notify passengers of flight delays over 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions, and they will be generally prohibited from increasing the price of purchased tickets.