ASTA Endorses DOT Passenger Rights

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) newly proposed rules— designed to increase the protection of consumers buying and using air transportation— will benefit travel agents and the traveling public, Paul Ruden, senior vice president of legal and industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) told Travel Agent.

Ruden congratulated Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and the Department of Transportation staff for what he believes is a bold initiative that, among other things, will encourage more travel and help relive travelers frustrations with airline services.

ASTA has completed its initial review of the lengthy proposals and intends to support almost all of them when it files formal comments with the DOT. “This rule-making is remarkable in both the scope and depth of the changes that would be required to improve the passenger experience,” Ruden said. He noted that many of the DOT’s proposals are identical to or consistent with recommendations that ASTA has been making for many years in rule-makings and other settings.

As reported, Secretary LaHood has proposed new consumer protections for air travelers, building on the DOT’s recent rule banning carriers from subjecting passengers to long tarmac delays and other deceptive practices. Interested parties have 60 days to comment on the DOT’s rules.

Specifically, the new DOT proposed rule would:

*    Increase compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from flights
*    Allow passengers to make and cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty
*    Require full and prominently displayed disclosure of baggage fees as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time
*    Require fair price advertising
*    Prohibit price increases after a ticket is purchased
*    Mandate timely notice of flight status

“Airline passengers have rights and should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when they fly,” Secretary Ray LaHood said. “With this rulemaking, we’re proposing to strengthen the consumer protections enacted last month and raise the bar for airlines when it comes to treating passengers fairly.”

The rule, published last December, adopts a three-hour limit for airline tarmac delays for domestic flights and requires U.S. carriers to adopt contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays at large-hub and medium-hub airports and to publish those plans on their web sites. The proposed rule would expand the requirement for having contingency plans to include foreign airlines’ operations at U.S. airports and would require carriers to adopt contingency plans for small- and non-hub airports.

The proposed rule also would increase the potential compensation for being involuntarily bumped from oversold flights and would make it easier for consumers to know how much they will have to pay for air transportation. Carriers would be required to provide special notice any time baggage fees are increased, and to notify passengers buying tickets whether they must pay to check up to two bags.

The DOT has also partnered with the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative in a pilot project, Regulation Room, designed to improve the public’s ability to understand and participate in this rulemaking through a web-based discussion format. Information on the Regulation Room can be found at



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