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justice planeAir passengers bemoaning the loss of their luggage will now be legally entitled to receive baggage fee refunds from the airlines. It’s about time. And there’s more good news: Other passenger safeguards, including increased compensation for bumped fliers, improved airline fee disclosure guidelines and new tarmac delay rules, are on the way, courtesy of the good ol’ DOT.

It’s all part of the Department of Transportation’s new airline passenger protection rules, which we blogged about in April. Starting August 23, some of those rules go into effect. But other proposed passenger protection regulations are being delayed until the beginning of next year.

The following new rules start August 23:

Tarmac Delays: International flights will not be permitted to remain on the tarmac for longer than four hours without allowing passengers to deplane; this rule is a follow-up on a similar rule for domestic flights. (Exceptions are permitted for safety or security reasons.) Additionally, carriers must establish tarmac delay contingency plans, and passengers must be updated on the status of delays every 30 minutes.

Fee Disclosure: Fees for optional services, like booking a ticket by phone, must be posted prominently on airlines’ Web sites.

Better Customer Service: Airlines must offer reimbursed baggage fees to travelers when luggage is lost. (This does not apply if luggage is merely delayed.)

Denied Boarding Compensation: The minimum compensation amount for passengers who’ve been involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight has increased to 200 – 400 percent of the value of a one-way ticket, up to $1,300. For more details, see Bumping and Overbooking.

Here are the rules that have been delayed until January 24, 2012:

Baggage Fees: Airlines will have to post any changes in baggage fees on their Web site home pages for at least three months.

Flight Status Changes: When operating any aircraft with 30 or more seats, all airlines will have to notify passengers of cancellations or delays of 30 minutes or longer within 30 minutes of becoming aware of those changes.

Better Customer Service: Airlines will have to permit ticket cancellations within 24 hours after reservations are made, without penalty.

Post-Purchase Price Increases: Fare increases that take place after a passenger has purchased a ticket will be banned (except when the passenger is given full disclosure of a potential price increase or when the increase is in government taxes or fees).

Full-Fare Advertising: Airline ads will be required to state the full fare to be paid, including government taxes and fees. (This rule wasn’t originally scheduled to take effect till October 24, but now, like the others, it’s been postponed until January 24.)

For more information, read How Will the DOT’s New Airline Passenger Rights Affect You?


– written by Caroline Costello

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