August 23, 2011 saw the implementation of some new airline regulations meant to address hidden ticket fees, long waits on the tarmac, and compensation of bumped passengers.
Here is a breakdown of the final rules that the U.S. Department of Transportation will begin enforcing this week, as outlined by USA Today:
- If a U.S. or international flight sits on the tarmac for more than four hours the DOT can impose fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.
- Passengers bumped from an oversold flight must be compensated double the price of the purchased ticket (up to $650), unless the airline gets them to their destination within a few hours. Currently, compensation is equal to the ticket up to $400. If the arrival time of bumped travelers is delayed by more than a few hours it would mean payments of four times the value of a ticket, up to $1,300. Currently, that compensation is capped at $800.
- Airlines must prominently display all fees on their websites, including fees for checked bags, in-flight meals and cancelled reservations. As Consumer Reports reported in Best & Worst Airlines this past June, the proliferation of fees has been a major source of aggravation to airline passengers.
Unfortunately, the DOT is delaying other provisions until January 2012, because airlines said they would need more time to comply. Those provisions include requirements that airlines:
- Let customers cancel reservations without penalty for at least 24 hours if they are made at least one week before the scheduled flight.
- Include government taxes and fees in advertised fares.
- Not raise a fare after a ticket has been bought, unless due to increased government taxes and fees.
Promptly notify passengers if a flight is cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes. Notification could include cell phone alerts, website updates, or an announcement at the check-in counter.