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Some US Air Passenger Rights Delayed

Interior of a PlaneOn August 23, newly designed air passenger rights will be put into effect. These will mandate that customers get a refund for luggage fees from airlines when their checked bags are lost, while carriers will also be made to pay more for bumping passengers involuntarily on flights that have been overbooked. The regulations are aimed at protecting airline consumers from deceptive and unfair practices and extend fines to international flights and foreign airlines if passengers are stranded on the tarmac for over four hours.

Passenger rights advocates have praised the new rules, but the airline industry has slammed them for adding challenges and costs that could result in more cancellations and higher fares. Some carriers are challenging one or more of the regulations. Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air are part of this opposition. One of the requirements they are protesting is that advertised ticket prices have to include government fees and taxes. Carriers have previously been able to list these separate, along with some passenger charges, as long as they were obviously linked or footnoted. The resistance has led to some of the provisions being delayed until next year.

The rules that are delayed until after August 23 include: disclosure of luggage charges, flight status notifications, post-purchase price rises, and the right to hold a reservation, without payment, at the quoted ticket price for at least 24 hours after the reservation is made, provided the booking is made a week or more prior to the departure date. On October 24, airlines will have to advertise the full cost of fares.

The Department of Transportation has filed a rebuttal in defence of the full-fare advertising regulation to help consumers see the true cost of flying. It is also considering an extra rule that will force carriers to provide information about their ancillary charges to travel agents and online fare distribution systems like Travelocity and Expedia in order for travellers to compare various fee-inclusive ticket prices more effectively.

FlyersRights, a nonprofit passenger-rights group, executive director Kate Hanni says the rules cover how delays are reported, international services being on the tarmac for too long, refunds for lost luggage and increased compensation to passengers who are bumped from their flight. Now airlines will have to disclose all optional charges on their websites, which will be a link to a page with the fees listed. This isn’t exactly what they hoped for, she added, but it will give consumers the ability to compare carriers.

Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell noted that the regulations go farther than any protections in US commercial aviation history. Corporate travel managers and travel agencies can’t transact ancillary charges on a given flight, as they don’t have them. It’s impossible to know who is more expensive, because all the fees aren’t available side-by-side.



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