The new rules proposed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to provide consumer protections for air travelers would apply to travel agencies and GDSs as well as airlines.
They would affect how air fares are advertised and quoted to customers, requiring the inclusion of all taxes and mandatory fees. GDSs already do this, and Susan Tanzman, president of Martin's Travel and Tours in Los Angeles, noted that this is one of the benefits of using an agent.
The rules also would require full disclosure of baggage fees, as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time.
Tanzman said requiring agents to track baggage fee policies for each ticket would be an unreasonable burden, since the information is not currently included in GDSs.
“If you’re a high-volume agency, this could bankrupt you,” she said.
Such information needs to come from the airline with its confirmation, she said.
The new rules would build on the department’s recent rule banning long tarmac delays, the DOT said.
The package of rules would also require airlines to allow passengers to cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty. Several major carriers already have this policy in place.
They also would require sellers of airline tickets to provide “full and prominently displayed” disclosure of baggage fees as well as refunds. This would add a new item to the list of agents’ responsibilities.
The department’s Web site, dot.gov, allows consumers to vote on items they consider most important – pricing and advertising, peanut allergies, baggage and other fees, etc.
It also invites comments on each section of the rules, asking, for example, whether it is acceptable for airlines to list mandatory fees separately so long as they are prominently displayed.
The DOT also would require more airlines to report tarmac delays of more than three hours.
Currently, the rule applies to the domestic flights of the 18 largest U.S. carriers. The DOT proposal would require all U.S. and foreign airlines operating aircraft of 30 or more seats on flights to and from the U.S. to report such delays. The rule also would apply to charter flights.
Compensation for involuntary bumping is currently limited to $400 if the carrier arranges substitute transportation scheduled to arrive at the passenger’s destination one to two hours after the passenger’s original scheduled arrival for domestic flights, or one to four hours for international flights, and to $800 if the substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive more than two hours later for domestic flights, or more than four hours later for international flights.
The proposed rule would increase these limits to $650 and $1,300, respectively. The amounts would be adjusted for inflation every two years.
Post-purchase price increases, such as the addition of fuel surcharges, would be prohibited. Such hikes are more likely to be imposed by tour operators, the DOT noted.