It happened yesterday and you probably did not realize it; the Airline Passenger Protection Act went into effect. If you fly, even just once a year, you need to know what your rights are and more importantly what is not included.
In Denver we are somewhat fortunate concerning on-time performance. The most recent statistics available from The Bureau of Transportation Statistics year-to-date ranks DIA at #4 for on-time arrival and #18 for on-time departure performance out of the 28 largest airports in the United States.
We have all viewed the news stories of passengers stranded on tarmacs, lost luggage woes (yes some of us remember the ill-fated automated baggage delivery system when DIA first opened) and other airline related horror stories. The Airline Passenger Protection Act is a step towards what many industry experts call an evolving “Passenger Bill of Rights”.
According to the Department of Transportation, “The new protections will make flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers nationwide. The new consumer protections, finalized earlier this year, include requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost, increase compensation provided to passengers bumped from oversold flights, and provide passengers greater protections from lengthy tarmac delays.”
Some of the highlights of the Airline PAssenger Proitection Act (The Act) include:
Lost Luggage: If luggage is lost while in transit the airlines must refund the fee paid for checked luggage. Of note, the new act DOES NOT address compensation if the luggage is delayed i.e. delivered post arrival. Concerning reimbursement for lost luggage and contents is still airline specific, rules which were in place prior to the Act.
Ancillary Fees: A fancy word for add-on fees from checked luggage to in-flight snack service. The new Act requires airlines to prominently disclose all optional fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating. And you thought nutrition labels were confusing…..
Involuntary Bump: Again, palatable wording advising the seat you booked and paid for is not available due to the over-selling of the flight. A secret, most airlines overbook their flights knowing a certain percentage of passengers, based on historical patterns will revise or miss the flight, thus overbooking is a hedge. However when to many passengers show up for the flight and voluntary bumps usually including limited compensation are not enough, some passengers may be “Involuntary Bumped”.
The new Act protects these passengers and enhances their compensation. Prior to the Act, bumped passengers were entitled to cash compensation equal to the one-way value of their tickets (up to $400) if the airline was able to get the passenger to their destination within a short period of time (within one to two hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and one to four hours for international flights).
If passengers were delayed for a lengthy period of time (more than two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights), they were entitled to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $800.
Under the new Act, bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their tickets (up to $650), while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the one-way value of their tickets (up to $1,300).
Tarmac Delays for International Flights: This is when you are on the plane, away from the gate and are literally forced to endure the delay within the confines of the plane. One of the most infamous was the double-digit hours delay experienced by passengers on a Northwest flight years ago at Detroit during a blizzard.. Such memories do not easily fade and the new Act addresses tarmac delays by establishing a hard 4-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports. The Act also extends the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights, currently in place only at large-hub and medium-hub airports, to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports as well. All carriers subject to the tarmac rule will be required to report lengthy tarmac delays to the DOT. In all cases, exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. Airlines also must ensure that passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.
In early 2012 additional rules are slated to take effectincluding a requirement that all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares (when flying internationally, taxes and fees can actually cost more than the base ticket); a ban on post-purchase price increases; a measure allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date; a requirement that airlines disclose baggage fees when passengers book a flight; a requirement that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey; a requirement that airlines disclose baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations; and a requirement that airlines provide prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.