Here’s why you shouldn’t show up late to the gate

When Stephen Oualline and his daughter arrived at the gate in Kona, Hawaii, for their Alaska Airlines trip San Diego, they were told that the plane had already departed. After a rebooking and an unplanned overnight in Oakland, Calif., Oualline wanted the airline to reimburse him for the money he spent to get them home, but it refused. Now he wants us to help him — but can we?

What you need to know about that SSSS stamp on your boarding pass

SSSS! Behold the four letters that you don’t ever want to see on your boarding pass. If you find the Secondary Security Screening Selection stamp on your ticket, you should know that the TSA agents will be treating you to an extra-thorough and specialized security screening. Lucky you!

But how, and by whom, are passengers selected for this additional form of screening? After Jo Freeman’s recent unpleasant close encounter of the TSA kind, she wants to know.

The DOT has fined fewer airlines this year. Should you be worried?

If it seems as if airlines are getting away with more passenger-unfriendly behavior, maybe it’s because they are.

The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is responsible for enforcing federal consumer-protection regulations, is on track to punish significantly fewer airlines this year, issuing 18 consent orders for $3.1 million in civil penalties. By comparison, the DOT had 29 orders worth $6.4 million for 2016, which included a $1.6 million fine against American Airlines for violating its tarmac delay rules handed down in mid-December. Barring a last-minute flurry of penalties, 2017 will be a much quieter year for the department.

Will a new bill hold the travel industry accountable?

Imagine a world where your cruise line or airline pays you if it fails to keep its schedule, you aren’t penalized for a canceled reservation if your hotel is able to resell the room and ticket change fees are related to the actual cost of changing your flight schedule.

Impossible, right?

Phones on planes, a matter of choice.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a proposal that would require airlines to notify passengers if they allow the use of mobile wireless devices, such as smartphones, to make telephone calls and to send messages while in the air.

The government is also seeking comments on whether to prohibit airlines from allowing voice calls on such devices and you have until Feb. 13 to give it a piece of your mind, and I suggest you do.

“The Department of Transportation has used a bazooka to kill an ant”

The long-awaited sequel to this summer’s controversial tarmac delay study has just been released. In it, aviation analysts Darryl Jenkins and Joshua Marks claim 384,000 more passengers were stranded by cancellations last summer, and an additional 49,600 air travelers experienced gate returns and delays. It calls on the Transportation Department to clarify its three-hour turnback rule — a rule the DOT insists is a resounding success. I asked Jenkins about the study and its conclusions this morning. Here’s our interview.

LaHood on Spirit’s carry-on baggage fees: “We’re gonna hold the airline’s feet to the fire on this”

Spirit Airlines’ decision to begin charging passengers for carry-on luggage — and lowering some fares to a penny — has caught the attention of the federal government, as many predicted it would. In part one of our exclusive interview with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, we talk about fees, consumer protection and the future of airline service

The ultimate punishment? Internet travel agency faces record fine for advertising violations

The online travel agency Ultimate Fares faces $600,000 in government fines for failing to include taxes and service fees in its airfares, a U.S. Department of Transportation Administrative Law Judge has ruled. The fine would be the largest ever assessed for advertising violations, according to regulators.

Can the government regulate fees for checked baggage? The Transportation Department has a canned answer

And it’s the wrong answer. In a recent column about luggage, I suggested that a simple rulemaking by the Transportation Department could compel airlines to include one piece of checked luggage as part of the base fare. I recommended that readers write the DOT to let it know they supported such action.

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