DOT Enforces Improved Airline Regulations

by  James Noonan | Aug 23, 2011
Plane in the sky
Plane in the sky / undefinedundefined/iStock

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s revised regulations aimed at boosting airline passenger protection, announced in April, finally take effect today. Among the new rules, passengers are entitled to a refund of baggage fees if their bags are lost, increased compensation if bumped from oversold flights, and more effective notifications and handling of lengthy tarmac delays.

While airlines are already obligated to reimburse passengers for loss, damaged, or delayed baggage, they must now also prominently disclose all optional fees on their websites. These include fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, and upgraded seating.

Up until now, bumped passengers were entitled to cash compensation equal to the one-way value of their tickets, up to $400 for domestic flights delayed for 1-2 hours and up to $800 for international flights delayed for 1-4 hours. As of today, those passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their tickets, while longer delays could see them pocketing up to $1300.

Added protections don’t just stop at the terminal – carriers must now report lengthy tarmac delays to the Department of Transportation, as well as provide passengers complimentary food and water after two hours and any necessary medical treatment.

Some additional rules won’t take effect until January 24, 2012 – these include all taxes and fees having to be included in advertised fares, banning post-purchase price hikes, and allowing a passenger to hold a reservation without payment or canceling fees for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or prior to a flight’s departure date.

In a recent press release issued by the DOT, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said, “The new passenger protections will help ensure that air travelers receive the respect they deserve before, during and after the flight.” His comments come after a wave of public dissent over poor customer service by airlines across the country. It seems their voices have now well and truly been heard.

For a detailed look at the changes and how they will affect you, follow this link.

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