Air Travelers Get Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

If you’ve been caught off guard when you checked in for your flight only to find the airline charges a $25 baggage fee, you weren’t alone.

That airfare to New York for $199 you found on the Internet sounds too good to be true. And indeed it was, once you discovered that was one-way fare exclusive of taxes and fees. When you got the flights you wanted and were ready to click on the purchase button the trip cost was closer to $500. Misleading advertising?

What about those nightmarish stories of being stuck on the tarmac for hours on end, when the galley ran out of food and beverages and the lavatories overflowed? You paid hundreds of dollars for that experience. Eww.

Or did the airline lose your luggage? After you paid an additional fee? Really?

Remember when they were known as the friendly skies? Not lately. If the airlines had been more forthcoming with their pricing, and not burying fees, maybe the DOT wouldn’t have to act. Overwhelming complaints from passengers being mistreated have finally forced the government to take action.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the following in a statement to the press:

Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly. The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.

Here’s a quick recap of those new DOT guidelines:

    • The new rules make it easier for passengers to determine the full price for their air travel. Under the new requirements, all mandatory taxes and fees must be included together in the advertised fare. Prices look higher but are more inclusive.
    • If you get bumped you’ll now get double the price of your purchased ticket up to $650. If the arrival time of the bumped traveler is delayed by more than a few yours that means payment of four times the value of the ticket up to $1300.
    • Tarmac delays are limited to four hours on international flights and three hours on domestic flights and now include all U.S. airports. If a flight sits on the tarmac for more than four hours the DOT can impose fines up to $27,500 per passenger.
    • If the airline loses your bag you get a refund of the fee you paid them to handle it. That one seems like a no-brainer to me and I can’t believe the airlines had to be told to do this.
    • Airlines must 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.
      • You’ll be treated fairly and respectfully when you fly. So are you more inclined to travel now than before the guidelines were implemented? Almost makes it sound fun to fly again, right? Except for that part where you get to arrive at the airport two hours early. And the ban on liquids in your carry-on bags. And security screenings where you get to undress and go barefoot.

      Let me know your thoughts on these new passenger-friendly guidelines and what impact they’ll have on your vacation travel plans.

      meredith-fisherWhen Meredith graduated from Chico State she was hired on at a small travel agency thinking it would be her ‘fun job’ for a few years with full intentions of moving on to her ‘real job.’ Since then she’s done leisure and corporate travel, training, incentive and group travel, and everything in between, but now finds herself back where she started, living vicariously through her client’s vacations. Twenty three years later, she is still having fun and finally putting her journalism background to work. She recently joined Avanti Travel as a Travel and Cruise Specialist. Meredith can be reached at travelbymeredith@charter.net.

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Meredith Fisher has 21 years of experience in the travel industry. When she graduated from Chico State she took a job at a small travel agency thinking it would be her 'fun job' for a few years with full intentions of moving on to her 'real job.' Since then she's done corporate travel, training, incentive and group travel, and everything in between, but now finds herself back where she started, living vicariously through her client's vacations. Meredith is still having fun and finally putting her journalism background to work.
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2 Responses

  1. Avatar AJ says:

    Good ol' Southwest. For anything under a four hour flight, I wouldn't fly any other way. 2 bags free. My favorite four-letter "F" word: FREE! The one time SW lost a piece of luggage they delivered it to my house the next day.

    Talked to my daughter in Jakarta last week. She had just done a 17 hour flight from LAX. The entire plane was first class so that with fewer seats and passangers they could carry fuel for 17 hours. She said the 17 hour experience was considerably easier than the 11 hour flight from Paris the week before. Frankly, I'd fly either of those places steerage!!

    Also, United is now offering (for an extra charge) Premier service which has shorter check in lines and shorter security lines . . . but you still have to do the security dance.

  2. Avatar Meredith says:

    I agree – Southwest is my go-to airline whenever possible. It may make an additional stop or connection along the way but the fares are competitive and your bags are free. But I like them best for being understanding and letting you change or cancel your ticket without a penalty.

    Those long flights are only tolerable if you can sleep – at least that what's worked for me. I like waking up, being served breakfast and then arriving at my destination.

    United and Continental do offer the Premier services of varying levels that can include seats with more legroom, 2 free checked bags, priority check-in, front of the line through security and even red carpet lounge access all for a fee. It's usually worth the additional expense.