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New Rules Protecting Airline Passengers Go Into Effect

Monday, August 22, 2011

WNYC

The U.S. Department of Transportation's latest set of "flier protection" rules go into effect Tuesday. The department can now impose large fines on international flights that wait on the tarmac for more than four hours.

Airlines will also have to clearly display fees charged on everything from checking a bag to reserving a seat to buying food. And a passenger can expect higher compensation from an airline that loses his luggage or involuntarily bumps her from a flight.

New York's airports, in particular, played a dubious role as a catalyst to the crackdown on long delays before take-off. In 2007, 154 flights were stuck on a runway at JFK Airport for more than three hours; two-thirds of all long waits in the country happened at one of the New York metropolitan area's three major airports. 

Then, in 2010, the U.S. DOT began fining domestic airlines for those delays and the numbers plummeted. Now the department will do the same for international flights.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, applauded the change. He also agreed with airlines being forced to clearly display all their charges to online ticket buyers. His is one of several consumer groups that say buying a ticket online means digging deep into an airline's website to understand all the different fee charges.

"They've had their fees buried on screen four, five and six, or just before you get ready to take your credit card out," Mitchell said.

Air Transport Association spokesman Steve Lott said airlines strive to communicate clearly with passengers. "Airlines already have made many service improvements and many of the regulations going into affect formalize procedures already in place," Lott said.

In January, airlines will face even more rules, including notifying passengers at the boarding gate if their flight is delayed or cancelled.

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Comments [1]

Claire Callan from nyc

I'm surprised WNYC is billing this as a good thing! Since it has been introduced for domestic flights, the airlines have indeed improved statistics markedly. They have done this by proactively canceling flights whenever the forecast indicates they might hit delays. They then either refund people (canceling vacations or other trips) or offer alternatives that may not be workable for short trips (multiple stops instead of direct flights). And sometimes the weather clears up and the flight could have gone just fine!

Its is a classic example of well intentioned legislation backfiring massively.

I am appalled that international flights will now be subject to the same thing. I l have sat on the tarmac for 5 hour delays during a snowstorm in the past. Its not ideal, but now I wonder if those same flights will be outright canceled? I would like to see WNYC cover this in the winter when storm season begins...

Aug. 23 2011 08:30 AM

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