Transportation Department wants airlines to reveal all fees and an airfare — or two

Editor’s note: This is part eight in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

Last week, we started dissecting the government’s plans to tighten the way in which airlines advertise their fares. But if you continue reading the proposed rulemaking, you’ll discover the Transportation Department wants to go further.

How much further? Well, not only does the government want to require online agencies to display complete prices, but it also has a series of ideas about how a more complete fare might be displayed.

The reason for the rule is simple: People are confused. And they’re paying more than they thought. According to the regulatory analysis (PDF),

In many cases, these passengers would not be aware of the amounts of baggage fees and optional fees charged in the absence of notices on these sites, resulting in them incurring more charges for checked baggage and other optional services than if they had known about the additional costs for these items.

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The truth about the government’s new “full fare” disclosure rule

Editor’s note: This is part seven in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

When you get a fare quote from an airline or online agency, you should expect to pay that price. Right?

Wrong.

It’s not that the travel industry lies — although it often does — but that quoting a less-than-inclusive ticket price has so many advantages.

For starters, the government doesn’t make you do it. It’s also easier to quote an “unbundled” fare. Plus, it makes you more money ($7.8 billion in airline fees last year, most of it tax-free).

All that could change if the Transportation Department has its way.
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New requirements would force international airlines to monitor and respond to passenger complaints

Editor’s note: This is part five in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

The deeper I wade into the new airline passenger rules, the more I find myself wondering: Why do airlines have to be told to do this?

Take its proposals about responses to consumer problems. In a previous rulemaking, the DOT had to tell U.S. carriers to designate an employee to monitor the effects on passengers of flight delays, flight cancellations, and lengthy tarmac delays and to have input into decisions such as which flights are canceled and which are subject to the longest delays.
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Government to airlines: Put it in the contract!

Editor’s note: This is part four in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

Talk is cheap.

That’s the gist of the part of the latest government rulemaking that is likely to give airlines the biggest headache. Instead of just “strongly encouraging” the airlines to adopt customer service plans, the government wants them to put it in their contracts of carriage, the legal agreement between them and their customers.

It’s about time.
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Maybe the dog ate Falcon Air’s homework

From time to time, a consent order crosses my desk that’s just too funny to not write about. Like today’s ruling (PDF) against Falcon Air Express, a Miami-based airline whose claim to fame is running a wet T-shirt contest on a charter flight to Mexico.

This time Falcon is in trouble for the less glamorous sin of failing to file its paperwork on time. According to the Transportation Department,

Falcon Air failed to file in a timely manner certain financial reports with the Department for half of 2007, all of 2008, and all of 2009, despite numerous warning notices from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

In April 2010, only after being contacted by the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office), did Falcon Air file all the delinquent reports with BTS.

Talk about tardy.
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