New Air Travel Rules Go Into Effect Next Week

By Paul Riegler on 19 January 2012
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Good news for business travelers.  Airline passengers will receive additional protection when new rules from the Department of Transportation go into effect next week.  Starting January 24, 2012 (January 26 for the full-fare advertising requirement), additional regulations will require airlines to

  • Allow customers to put a reservation on hold without payment for 24 hours and to change or cancel reservations within 24 hours without a penalty (provided that the reservation was made at least one week prior to departure).
  • Notify all passengers of any cancellations, diversions, and delays of more than 30 minutes.
  • Disclose all government taxes and fees in the advertised fare price.

These rules were originally scheduled to go into effect last August but were delayed to provide more time to implement them.

The Department of Transportation had also issued rules that went into effect last August covering fees, lost luggage, involuntary bumping, and tarmac delays.   Those rules require that airlines

  • Disclose all potential fees and charges (such as for checking bags, purchasing meals, cancelling or changing a flight, and upgrading a seat) on their Web sites.
  • Refund any baggage fees received for lost luggage in addition to compensating travelers for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage.
  • Apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including those with code-share and interline partners.
  • Increase compensation for those passengers involuntarily bumped from a flight. Passengers delayed for up to two hours are entitled to twice the ticket price, up to $650, and those delayed longer are entitled to as much as four times the ticket value, with a limit of $1,300.

In addition, the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays was expanded to cover foreign airlines operating at U.S. airports. A maximum of four hours on the tarmac is allowed (airlines must provide food and water after two hours) with exceptions allowed only in cases relating to safety, security, or air traffic control-related issues.

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