The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning to release several new airline passenger regulations today. It is being reported the new rules will make all fees more transparent up-front, enhance denied boarding compensation, refund some baggage fees, and add a 4-hour tarmac delay rule for internationally arriving flights to the U.S. The full regulations have yet to become available on the DOT website as of this posting, but will go into effect in August 2011.
On the fee front, the new regulations will require airlines to disclose all fees prior to the point you purchase a ticket, including taxes, baggage handling, food pricing, and “even blankets” according to the video portion from the link above. The baggage fees are a hot topic with everyone today, and Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation is promising refunds for lost baggage. The terms of what qualifies as “lost” have yet to be published, so I’ll hold my opinion until I see what the actual rule will become.
On the denied boarding front, it is important to remember they are speaking of involuntary denied boarding, where the airline is unable to solicit enough volunteers to give up their seats & then must remove unwilling passengers due to oversales. Those rules are being enhanced to provide 2 times the value of your one-way ticket price up to $650 if you don’t make it to your destination within 2 hours, and 4 times the value up to $1,300 for longer delays. This has nothing to do with the initial offers you hear for volunteering your seat, where United Airlines currently offers $400 in travel credits, and Delta Air Lines has gone to a bidding system.
Last year’s 3-hour limit to how long a domestic U.S. flight can sit on the tarmac without allowing passenger to disembark is being expanded to international flights touching down on U.S. soil. Here, airlines will have to allow passengers off after 4-hours on the ground, or else pay fines in the neighborhood of $27,500 per passenger on the plane.
I’ll be sure to update my thoughts on the rules once they are released officially. While flying still isn’t a pleasant experience for many, it is nice to see our government making some authoritative steps in the right direction to ease some of the headaches.