It’s official: airlines must double compensation for bumped passengers

By | April 16th, 2008

Just in time for the busy summer travel season, the Transportation Department this morning announced a series of steps designed to calm the frayed nerves of air travelers, including a new rule that doubles the limit on compensation airlines must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped from their flight.

The measures are outlined in a lengthy announcement outlining initiatives designed to “strengthen passenger protections, improve consumer choice and reduce congestion,” according to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

Well, somebody hose me down.

Among the steps:

Clearing the air. Peters announced new air traffic measures designed to help cut delays this summer. The first involves new flexibility for aircraft to use alternative routes in the sky to avoid severe weather. This includes a new routing alternative that provides an “escape route” into Canadian airspace from the New York metropolitan area so airlines can fly around summer thunderstorms and high winds.

Adding another “lane” in the sky. The Federal Aviation Administration will open a second westbound route for aircraft to New York. That’s the equivalent of building another interstate highway lane in the sky. It would, in effect, provide a parallel route along a heavily-traveled aviation corridor, helping cut westbound delays from the New York area.

More money for bumped passengers. A new rule (which I blogged about when it was first being considered) goes into effect next month under which air travelers who are involuntarily bumped would receive up to $400 if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time or four hours for international flights, and up to $800 if they are not rerouted within that timeframe.

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But the Transportation Department buried the proverbial lede, as they say in journalism.

In its announcement, it pointed to an obscure government Web site called, which led to a page that discusses a wider range of possible initiatives that could help air travelers.

Those include a proposed new rule that would increase the airline service quality performance data carriers currently report to the government on information related to canceled or diverted flights. And there are proposals designed to require airlines to create legally binding contingency plans for extended tarmac delays, respond to all consumer complaints within 30 days, publish complaint data online, and provide on-time performance information for international flights in addition to domestic flights.

You know, I read the Federal Register every day and didn’t see any of these proposals. Chances are, neither did you. Sadly, the time to comment on these ideas has already passed.


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