New Rights For Airline Passengers

From Kathleen Pender on SFGate

Airline passengers gain new rights this week including the ability to hold a reservation without payment — or cancel one with a full refund — within 24 hours of making the reservation, as long as it’s made at least a week before the departure date.

Some airlines were doing this voluntarily but now it’s a requirement. It’s one of several new regulations the U.S. Department of Transportation announced in April 2011 that take effect today.

The new rules also require airlines to promptly notify passengers of cancellations, diversions and delays longer than 30 minutes and generally prohibit them from increasing the price of a ticket after it is bought.

Airlines and ticket agents also must disclose baggage fees to consumers when they book a flight online. The first screen containing a fare quotation for a specific itinerary must show if there are baggage fees and tell consumers where they can see these fees.

Information on baggage fees also must be included on all e-ticket confirmations. For most trips the same baggage fees and allowances must apply throughout a passenger’s journey, the transportation department said in a press release.

New advertising rules that take effect Thursday require airlines and ticket agents to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares. Today, airlines and ticket agents can show government-imposed taxes and fees separately from the advertised fare if they are assessed on a per-passenger basis.

The new rules apply to all airlines, foreign and domestic, operating in the United States and to ticket agents operating here.

Another set of passenger protections took effect in August. They require airlines to refund baggage fees when they lose bags and provide increased compensation to passengers bumped from oversold flights.

The department said it is considering other protections such as requiring airlines to disclose fees for optional services when passengers book a flight, extending the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights to smaller airports and strengthening disclosure of code-share flights, which is a flight marketed by one airline but operated by another.


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