New airline rule tackles fees, bumping, flight delays

In this Aug. 26, 2008 file photo, a traveler is seen in Terminal C at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport as aircraft, rear, taxi along a runway in Grapevine, Texas. ( (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, file))

April 20, 2011 2:43:27 PM PDT
Passengers who get bumped from a flight or lose a bag will be compensated, according to a new protection plan by the federal government.

The Passenger Protection Plan was unveiled Wednesday the U.S. Department of Transportation. Secretary Ray LaHood said the new regulations were designed to make sure airlines treat travelers fairly.

"It's just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed," LaHood said.

It goes further than the rules issued two years ago, addressing lost luggage, overbooking and hidden fees on airlines. It also limits how long passengers can be stuck on the tarmac.

"The fees should be, minimally, returned because they didn't provide the service of delivering the bag. And then there should be some compensation for your inconvenience," Bob Denk said of lost luggage.

Freddie Brooks, who just got into Chicago's Midway Airport from Chattanooga on Wednesday, said he thinks the plan is a good thing for passengers.

"You always got to start somewhere. I feel once this gets into place and the bugs get kicked out and people get to saying the pros and cons of it they might make some other adjustments," Brooks said.

The new airline passenger protections require airlines to:

  • Refund any fee if a bag is lost;
  • Prominently disclose on fees and taxes in advertised prices;
  • Increase compensation for a bumped flight-- up to $650 for a short delay and $1,300 for longer delays;
  • limit tarmac delays: 3 hours for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights. After two hours on the tarmac, passengers get food and water.

    "What was going on-- having people sitting on aircraft for hours on end-- is not right and it's not fair," Olga Mitchell said.

    Patrick Kennedy is in Chicago on a layover. He said he was stranded at O'Hare Airport for five hours a few years ago. Kennedy welcomes the changes and hopes the rules make more airlines accountable to its customers.

    "I do hope that the airlines pay a little more attention to the kind of inconvenience that passengers have. This is definitely going to keep them a little more on the ball," Kennedy said.

    Most provisions go into effect the end of August. Airlines could be fined $27,500 per passenger per violation. Airline trade groups have warned that airlines will cancel more international flights to avoid the fine of up to $27,500 per passenger that comes with breaking the rule. The fine could total more than $10 million for a fully loaded superjumbo jet like an Airbus A380 -- although the government has never imposed anything close to the maximum.

    Violation Complaints

    If there's a violation, passengers can file complaints with the airlines directly or with the U.S. Department of Transportation by:

  • writing to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590;
  • calling (202) 366-2220; by TTY at (202) 366-0511;
  • or filling out a form online at
  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.