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New DOT Rules Coming This Month!

Flight Cancelled-Now What?

Tarmac Delays, Cancellations Down in November

Flyers Rights Education Fund Matching Gifts

What Kate’s Saying

New DOT Rules Coming This Month

When the Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented their second round of rules last August DOT Logo23rd, they bowed to airline requests and delayed four of the provisions until January 24th. At the request of American Airlines, DOT further delayed one of those provisions to January 26th.

Now, on top of our Three-Hour Tarmac Rule (four hours for international flights), return of baggage fees if the airline loses your bag, and disclosure of baggage fees up front, the rest of the rules will go into effect this month.

January 24, 2012

  • Airlines prohibited from increasing ticket prices after purchase. Now we can purchase tickets without concern that additional charges will show up on our credit card bills.
  • Travelers can hold reservations for 24 hours without payment and cancel within 24 hours without penalty, if they purchase tickets a week in advance. This will be a boon for business travelers, who must frequently make travel arrangements that they know may change.
  • Airlines must notify passengers of flight status changes within 30 minutes. When delays occur, a major complaint we hear on our Hotline boils down to “we can’t find out what’s going on.” The new rule mandating updates every 30 minutes will have a very positive impact, reducing a major stress factor in air travel. The rule’s insistence that airlines notify passengers who subscribe to their flight notification services by all available means will give us meaningful, timely information.

January 26, 2012

  • Full fare advertising goes into effect. The advertised fare will now include all government-imposed taxes and fees. For years, airline passengers have been confused by incomplete fare presentations. While DOT has delayed implementation of this one provision by two days, we will soon be able to look at an advertised fare and know that it includes all taxes and fees. For the first time, apples to apples comparisons will be easier.

Together, we have made a real difference. Together, we will continue the fight to eliminate the horrors of today’s air travel and return it to the experience it once was. You can help us with a donation to FlyersRights or to our tax-deductible Flyers Rights Education Fund.

Flight Cancelled-Now What?

We all know that air travel is never a sure thing. Many flights are delayed or cancelled, for a variety of reasons. If your flight is cancelled, what do you do? What are your rights?

There was once an FAA rule, Rule 240, which required airlines to book you on other airlines’ flights in the event of cancellations. The rule also mandated However, as the FAA tells us, the term “refers to a rule that existed before airline deregulation. There is no longer an actual Rule 240. The term, as it is now used, r
efers to each airline´s “conditions of carriage” policy. You would need to contact the airlines to obtain this.”

The DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement site provides some good guidance for this situation.

Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements. If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if it will pay for meals or a phone call. Some airlines, often those charging very low fares, do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers. Others may not offer amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or something else beyond the airline’s control. Contrary to popular belief, airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled. As discussed in the chapter on overbooking, compensation is required by law only when you are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold. Airlines almost always refuse to pay passengers for financial losses resulting from a delayed flight. If the purpose of your trip is to close a potentially lucrative business deal, give a speech or lecture, attend a family function, or connect to a cruise, you might want to allow a little extra leeway and take an earlier flight. In other words, airline delays and cancellations aren’t unusual, and defensive planning is a good idea when time is your most important consideration.

FlyersRights member Dr. Myron Bernstein wrote to Kate last week about his son’s good fortune when his family faced a cancellation recently. Rather than storming up to the counter, Myron’s son politely requested passage on another airline under the provisions of Rule 240. Luckily, the airline’s contract of carriage apparently contained provisions for this, and they rebooked the family on another airline.

As the DOT says, there is no longer a legal requirement to do so, and some airlines provide nothing for stranded passengers, but it is certainly worth a try. The key, of course, is to use honey instead of vinegar. As Dr. Bernstein noted, many gate agents aren’t familiar with the nuances of this, and citing the rule may motivate them to help you.

The following table compares major airlines’ current commitment to Rule 240 provisions. It is current as of January 15, 2012, and subject to change. As you’ll see, provisions vary by airline, and are sometimes spread between their Contract of Carriage and customer commitment documents.

Airline “Rule 240” Provisions

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Airline

Same Line Rebook

Other Line Rebook

Refund


Hotel

Meals

Hotel Transport

Surface Transport

Notes

Alaska

y

y

y

y

y

Y

American

Y

Y

Y

Y

?

?

Y

“reasonable overnight accommodations”

Delta

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Frontier

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Public

Some provisions in Customer Commitment

Hawaiian

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Extensive quoting of old Rule 240 provisions

JetBlue

Y

Y

Y

Y

Compensatory travel vouchers

Southwest

Y

Y

*

*try to secure discount hotel rate for you (in Customer Service Commitment)

United

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

US Airways

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Virgin America

Y

Y

Y

*

*

*

*Only specifically provided for “travel with interline partner” problems

FlyersRights believes that the provisions of the old Rule 240 need to be a part of the next DOT rulemaking. While cancellations are sometimes unavoidable, and sometimes not the airlines’ fault, neither are they our fault, and airlines must make every effort to accommodate us on other companies’ flights. The disparity of commitment between the various airlines highlights the need for a standard approach.

Tarmac Delays, Cancellations Down in November

As reported in USA Today, just two airplanes violated the Tarmac Delay Rule and airlines had fewer flight delays and cancellations in November, compared to the previous month. Yet, passenger complaints were up.

The Tarmac Rule is working! DOT is investigating the two violations, both at LAX. The number is down significantly from the 18 stranded in October, during the “Snowtober” disaster, but anyAirliners on Snowy Rampextended tarmac delays highlight the need for communication, cooperation, and collaboration between all the moving parts in our complex air transportation system. We will continue to push for comprehensive planning to eliminate tarmac stranding events.

November’s on time arrival rate was 85.3%, about two percentage points better than the prior November. The best performers were Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, and Southwest. At the bottom were regionals ExpressJet and SkyWest, along with American Airlines.

Why, then, are customer complaints up? Well, for one thing, passenger activism has increased, and we’re responsible for a lot of that. Top complaint issues, according to a boston.com article, place flight problems, baggage issues, and reservations/ticketing/boarding problems at the top.

Time Short for Flyers Rights Education Fund Gift Match

FREF LogoThe coalition of board member Paul Hudson and friends of Ralph Nader has extended their offer to match your tax-deductible donations, dollar for dollar, to the Flyers Rights Education Fund. That offer expires in two weeks! We are close to our $15,000 goal, but we cannot reach it without your generous help.

Please take a moment to make a donation to the Flyers Rights Education Fund, and get double the bang for your buck!

What Kate’s Saying

KAAL-TV

http://kaaltv.com/article/stories/S2451165.shtml?cat=10219


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