New Rules Will Give Flyers More Disclosure, Better Service

Planning your summer travel and hate the idea of flying? Take heart: The U.S. Department of Transportation approved new rules today that will ease some of the burden. Here are the highlights.


1) Better comparison shopping: Airlines must now include government taxes and disclose all other fees when advertising plane fares. This should be especially helpful to folks flying overseas, where various surcharges can greatly boost prices. (Meanwhile, watch out for this sneaky airline trick.)


2) Better compensation for bumping: If a carrier bumps you off a flight and you arrive at your destination within one to two hours of your planned arrival time, it must pay you double the price of your ticket up to $650. (The time frame is one to four hours for international flights.) But the airline must pay you four times the value of your ticket — up to $1,300 — if you arrive more than two hours after your originally scheduled time (four hours for international flights).


3) No more tarmac nightmares: Foreign airlines must release passengers stuck at U.S. airports after four hours on the tarmac, or be fined up to $27,500. (Last year the DOT ruled that U.S. airlines must release passengers after three hours.)  Carriers must also provide adequate food and water to stuck passengers after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.


4) Reimbursement of Fees: If the airline loses your bag, they have to refund baggage fees.


5) Easier planning: Passengers can cancel reservations within 24 hours of a booking without penalty.     Also, airlines must notify consumers of delays of more than 30 minutes.


Personally I’d love to see something about having real food for sale when a flight lasts longer than four hours and takes place over lunch or dinner. I flew to Arizona in January and the $6 fruit and cheese plate just didn’t cut it for me.


Anything you would add to the DOT’s new regulations? What’s your worst flying experience? Would these rules have helped you avoid the situation?

Laura Rowley