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DOT proposes higher compensation for bumped passengers

June 3rd, 2010

The Department of Transportation is thoroughly making over the rules airlines must comply with when it comes to safety and passenger comfort. They’ve already limited the amount of time an airplane can spend in the tarmac before penalties start to accrue, now they’re focusing on undisclosed fees and overbooking that leads to involuntary bumping of passengers.

Currently, airlines must compensate passengers for involuntary bumping. You’ll receive at least $400 if the airline can arrange substitute transportation that will get you to your destination within one to two hours of your original scheduled arrival for domestic flights, or one to four hours for international flights. That rises to $800 if they miss that deadline.

The new regulations would up the penalties to $650 and $1300 respectively and then ties those amounts to inflation. “This administration believes consumers are entitled to strong and effective protections when they fly,” stated Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

In theory this will provide an incentive for airlines to reduce the practice of overbooking and to schedule their flights to allow more time for possible delays.

Other rules and regulations suggested by the DOT include:

  • Smaller airports and international air carriers would be required to adopt contingency plans for long tarmac delays.
  • Airlines must provide passengers more information on delays, this includes international airlines.
  • Establish of minimum standards for carriers’ customer service plans and extend the customer service plan requirements to cover foreign carriers.
  • Carriers will be required to list taxes and fees in advertising and prevents “opt-out” add-ons (an oxymoron if there ever was one) such as trip insurance.
  • Airlines will now have to reveal extra fees like baggage and seat reservation fees where they publish their airfares.
  • One of my favorites, allow passengers a 24-hour grace period during which they can change their mind about an airline ticket purchase.
  • Post-purchase price increases would be prohibited.
  • Communication with passengers regarding flight status changes, such as cancellations and delays, would have to be more frequent and displayed at the boarding gate area, on website, and on telephone help lines.

What do you think? Will these proposed changes actually have an affect on your travel comfort?

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