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New rules aim to treat air travelers more fairly

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the regulations, which take effect in late August, were designed to make sure that airlines treat travelers, such as the one above in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, fairly.

Associated Press (2008)

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the regulations, which take effect in late August, were designed to make sure that airlines treat travelers, such as the one above in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, fairly.

DALLAS — Airlines will soon be required to refund bag fees if they lose luggage, and they'll pay travelers more for bumping them from a flight.

The federal government's new passenger protections also expand a tarmac-delay rule to prevent passengers from being stranded on international flights for longer than four hours.

The airlines will also have to include fees and taxes in advertised prices.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the regulations, which take effect in late August, were designed to make sure airlines treat travelers fairly.

"It's just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed," he said.

The new provision on tarmac delays expands upon last year's three-hour limit for flights within the United States. Regulators were persuaded to apply a four-hour limit to international flights after a late-December debacle in which several planes loaded with international travelers were stuck, some for more than 10 hours, on snowy runways at New York's JFK Airport.

Airline trade groups have warned that airlines will cancel more international flights to avoid the fine of up to $27,500 per passenger that comes with breaking the rule. The fine could total more than $10 million for a fully loaded superjumbo jet like an Airbus A380 — although the government has never imposed anything close to the maximum.

The groups note that with some international flights operating only once every few days, passengers could be stranded far longer under the new rule.

On refunding bag fees for lost luggage, the Transportation Department decided not to require refunds for bags delivered late. Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for the value of lost bags, regardless of whether a fee was paid to check them.

Last year, airlines mishandled 2 million bags, although that includes damaged and delayed ones.

Wednesday's rule confirms another change that the regulators proposed last year — more compensation for passengers bumped off oversold flights. Currently, it's up to $400 or $800, depending on how long a passenger is delayed before catching a makeup flight. Those limits will be raised to $650 and $1,330.

The new rule also requires airlines to prominently disclose all potential fees — for checking bags, changing reservations, upgrading seats, and so on — on their websites.

Airlines also will have to include taxes and government-imposed fees in the fares that they advertise. Airlines had argued that car dealers and other businesses don't have to do that.

.Fast facts

Fliers' rights

Some highlights of the Transportation Department rule changes going into effect in August:

Lost luggage refund: Airlines will have to repay the fees travelers paid to check bags, in addition to the cost of the bags themselves, if they are lost.

Bumping compensation: The cost for airlines to bump a passenger will rise from limits of $400-$800 to limits of $650-$1,300.

Tarmac delays: Airlines will be fined if they strand passengers on international flights on the tarmac for more than four hours.

New rules aim to treat air travelers more fairly 04/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 8:35pm]
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