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DOT Rules: A Win for ASTA and AgentsApril 20, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) said that the final rules announced by the Department of Transportation (DOT) today in the Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections rulemaking were, with two important exceptions, a triumph for air travelers and those who sell to them. ASTA praised U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for undertaking boldly to change the way in which airlines treat passengers across the board.
ASTA noted that it had filed extensive comments in the rulemaking proceeding on more than 30 separate issues raised for discussion.
“On almost every one of them the department adopted rules that were identical to or substantively indistinguishable from the positions that ASTA had advocated,” said the organization.
“Among the major new rules ASTA supported were the application of a four-hour tarmac delay limit to foreign air transportation by all carriers, mandatory refund of optional fees paid when baggage is lost and when the optional services are not used due to oversales or cancellations, enhancements to denied boarding compensation, expansion of the “full price” rule to include government charges and enhanced notice of flight delays,” ASTA said.
“These new rules will materially improve the air passenger experience,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chairman of the board. “ … ASTA is gratified that so many of its pro-consumer positions were adopted by the Department in the final rule. At the same time,” Russo continued, “we are disappointed that DOT did not require the airlines to include their passenger service commitments in the contract of carriage. The DOT did say, however, that it would continue to monitor airline conduct regarding contracts of carriage.”
More importantly, ASTA said, the DOT did not adopt rules that require the airlines to share optional fee information in a transactable form with travel agents. Instead it announced, but did not issue, another rulemaking to address that issue.
There may also be concerns about the rule that requires travel agents to include links to optional baggage fee information on electronic ticket confirmations. ASTA will be evaluating these issues further in the days ahead.