May 01, 2024

FlyersRights Reports DOT Publishes Two New Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced two final rules that protect the rights of airline passengers and put an end to some of the most notorious airline deceptive behavior.

First, the DOT announced a rule "To Protect Consumers from Surprise Airline Junk Fees." This rule requires airlines and ticket agents to display the passenger-specific carry-on bag fee, 1st checked bag fee, 2nd checked bag fee, change fees, and cancellation fees on the first screen that a flight is offered for sale. For the past 15 years, the airlines have separated the base fare from optional services. As a result, ancillary fee revenue, and also consumer confusion, has skyrocketed. The DOT found that baggage fee prices increased by 30% from 2018 to 2022, far outpacing overall airline revenue increases.

FlyersRights has brought this issue to the forefront in its Bill of Rights, rulemaking proposals, and public advocacy and comments to the DOT's public hearings and Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee meetings.

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights, noted, "This marks a significant victory in the war against 'Gotcha Fees'. The airlines argue that they want competition, and this rule provides the transparency that is necessary for that competition. Having critical ancillary fee information available to the consumer on the first page where they can purchase a ticket increases airline competition and the ability to comparison shop."

Second, the DOT published a new rule on automatic refund requirements for canceled flights, significantly changed flights, public health emergencies, and for passengers with serious communicable diseases. The rule requires airlines to provide automatic refunds whenever a flight is canceled or a flight is significantly changed, provided that the passenger does not accept an offer of an alternative flight. For the first time, the DOT is defining a significant schedule change as one that moves up the departure time or pushes back the arrival time by three or more hours for domestic flights and six or more hours for international flights.

The rule also addresses public health emergencies and individual passengers with serious communicable diseases. Under this rule, passengers are entitled to a transferable travel voucher that expires in no fewer than 5 years if (1) they are diagnosed with a serious communicable disease or (2) their health is at risk from travel during a declared public health emergency involving a serious communicable disease, or (3) a travel health ban or quarantine disrupts a substantial portion of their travel.

The DOT published these rules pursuant to its authority to prohibit unfair and deceptive practices. These rules will begin to take effect in 6 months and will be fully implemented in 18-24 months.

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