United States DOT issues two key Passenger Rights Rules

On Wednesday 24 April, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) issued two new key Passenger Rights rules:

  • The Refunds and Other Consumer Protections Final Rule. According to the final rule, both U.S. and foreign airlines must promptly and automatically refund, and ticket agents must promptly refund as well, on request, tickets of airlines that cancel or significantly modify their flights when consumers do not accept the alternatives offered.
  • The Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees Final Rule. The main goal that the Department of Transportation (DOT) had when approving this Final Rule was to ensure that airline passengers are not affected from surprise fees when purchasing a ticket.

 

  • Key points regarding the Refunds and Other Consumer Protections Final Rule

Below is a summary of the main new features included in this Final Rule:

  • It includes the definition of Cancelled Flight as ´´a flight that was published in a carriers Computer Reservation System (CRS) at the time of the ticket slae but not operated by the carrier´´.
  • “Prompt” ticket refund:  It requires U.S. and foreign air carriers to promptly refund checked bag fees for significantly delayed bags and ancillary service fees for ancillary services that consumers paid for but were not provided. ´´Prompt´´ ticket refund means:
    • Airlines and ticket agents provide refunds for tickets with credit cards within 7 business days of refunds becoming due;
    • If the ticket was purchased with payments different than credit cards, the refund must be completed within 20 calendar days.
  • Requires U.S. and foreign air carriers to provide transferable travel vouchers or credits valid for at least 5 years to consumers holding non-refundable tickets for scheduled flights to, from, or within the United States who are restricted by a government or advised by a medical professional not to travel to, from, or within the United States due to a serious communicable disease.

 

  • Automatic Refunds of Airline Tickets: carriers must provide automatic ticket refunds when:

 

    • It cancels a flight and does not offer alternative transportation or compensation;

 

    • It significantly changes a flight, and the consumer rejects this modification, and the carrier does not offer any alternative transportation or compensation.

 

    • The consumer rejects the significantly changed flight or alternative transportation offered, as well as any travel credits, vouchers or other compensation offered by the carrier.

 

  • Refunding Fees for Delayed Bags: carriers must provide automatic refunds of checked baggage if the baggage is not delivered:

 

    • Within 12 hours for domestic flights;
    • Within 15 hours for foreign flights of 12 hours or less;
    • Within 30 hours for froing flights over 12 hours.

 

  • Processing fees for issuing refunds, credits or vouchers: carriers cannot retain a processing fee for issuing required refunds when the carrier cancels or significantly changes a flight.

 

  • Overview of the Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees Final Rule

European Transport Workers´ Federation (ETF) launched its Toolbox for Successful Social Dialogue at Airports, a document that addresses the following matters:

 

  • Requires airlines to disclose their baggage, change and cancellation policies before ticket purchase.

 

  • Requires airlines and ticket agents to tell consumers upfront what fees they charge for a first or second checked bag, a carry-on bag, and for cancelling or changing reservation.

 

  • Airlines and ticket agents must disclose critical ancillary service fees on the first page of their online platforms to which consumers are directed after searching flight options.

Airlines and ticket agents must provide consumers the option to receive passenger-specific fees taking into account their participation in the airline´s rewards program, their military status, or the credit card or to remain anonymous and received the standard fee information.

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