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Airlines React To New DOT Consumer ProtectionsApril 20, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
The Air Transport Association (ATA) reacted quickly in response to the Department of Transportation’s new Passenger Protections Rule issued today.
“ATA appreciates that DOT shares our goal of providing safe, reliable transportation, treating customers fairly and providing the best service possible. The airline industry supports increased communication and full transparency, ensuring that our customers always know exactly what they are getting every step of the way; and market forces – not additional regulations – are already providing customer benefits, “ said ATA President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio.
“As the DOT statistics demonstrate, airlines already have made many service improvements and many of the regulations formalize procedures already in place, including prompt delay notification, one-way fare advertising, and irregular-operation contingency plans. We share the DOT goal of continuously improving the customer experience and our member airlines will implement the new rules as efficiently as possible,” Calio said.
ATA said its members continue to drive improvements in several specific areas mentioned in the final DOT rule, including:
ATA welcomes the DOT call for the collection of more data related to cancellations and delays.
“Without comprehensive data and appropriate benchmarks, it is difficult to accurately evaluate regulatory effectiveness or whether existing rules should be modified. Airlines should have more flexibility in making operational judgment calls to ensure that they are getting the maximum number of customers to their destinations reliably and safely. We will work in partnership with the DOT to collect more statistics, and we also believe DOT must create a new cancellation tracking code in line with the new regulations to provide a greater understanding of the rule’s effectiveness and whether unintended consequences are occurring,” said Calio.
In 2010, the industry posted its lowest rate of mishandled baggage – 3.57 bags per 1,000 customers – since the DOT began keeping records, and its third consecutive year of improvement.
“Our members compete aggressively on customer service and are investing in new processes and infrastructure to assure that passengers’ bags arrive on time,” Calio said.
The industry recently launched a project to create a centralized database of baggage rules in order to make the rules more transparent for interline or code-share trips.
The 2010 rate of involuntary denied boardings was the lowest since 2006. As reported by the DOT, there were 1.09 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 enplaned passengers, down 11 percent from 2009. Many airlines have long-standing policies and procedures to assist passengers, including first asking for and compensating volunteers.
Some airlines have opted to offer customers the option to pay for products and services that they want and, in doing so, have continued to be fully transparent, ensuring that customers know exactly what they are buying and paying for before the purchase transaction. Airlines will continue to work to present a clear differentiation between the fare charged by the airlines and the government taxes and fees, which can account for roughly 20 percent of the ticket price.