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6/2/2010 18:30

The proposals are certainly reasonable and should also be extended to include on-line booking services since that could be a potential loophole for the airlines not to comply.

    7/28/2010 15:53

    I agree with CLT_PASS, all the proposed customer service requirements (not options or “voluntary”) and the five bullet points under “additional standards DOT should be considering,” are appropriate. They should apply to foreign carriers anywhere DOT has enforcement jurisdiction. Baggage delay beyond 2 hours should certainly be long enough to be “not delivered on time”, with the proviso that a “late checkin” (30 min. before departure domestic, one hour international flight, perhaps) of the bag by the passenger would relieve the airline of that strict deadline. A “significant delay” under the third bullet point, allowing refund of any type of ticket, should be specified, and 3 hours seems reasonable for any flight regardless of duration. Late bags ought to have any baggage fees refunded. The idea that at least one bag checked be included in all fares would improve safety in the cabin, given our current situation with large, heavy bags jammed into overhead bins or under seats to avoid fees. Customer service plans and standards should be part of the written contract of carriage, so passengers have written commitments to compare among different carriers when choosing with whom to fly.

6/2/2010 18:39

There is another growing problem that needs to be addressed, limitation on in-flight sales & solicitation. One US carrier has mastered this art. Flight attendants are on the intercom from take-off to landing selling everything from MasterCards to sandwiches. I boarded USA in Miami in March and it was the coldest airplance I’ve ever seen. Moments later when the lady across the aisle asked for a blanket for her and her young child she was told they had no complimentary ones but could sell her two! There is NO question in my mind the reason the plane was so cold was to generate blanket sales. This is just wrong.

    6/2/2010 19:03

    Thanks for the observation and comment CLT_Pass.

    1. If the DOT were to include a regulation on inflight sales, how should it work?

    2. Do you think airlines should be able to sell everything or should some items be banned from sale?

    6/14/2010 19:12

    I was on a flight with a similar issue recently. First the customer was told that they couldn’t give out blankets anymore because of the recent “flu outbreak” subsequent liability issues. The next flight attendant offered to sell the customer a blanket. Apparently the illness threat vanishes for a fee.

6/2/2010 19:56

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What happens to children flying alone? The airlines require that a companion (an employee of the airline) be assigned (for a fee) to children under a certain age for the duration of their travels. How do the children just over the cut-off fend for themselves? ALL minors should have additional protections as they will not be able to stand up and be heard as an adult might. I have not heard anything about the treatment of minors. Anyone?

    6/2/2010 20:36

    This is an interesting question. Should airlines have to deal with minors or maybe even senior citizens differently? What does the community have to say?

    7/15/2010 11:37

    In general, I think that blanket policies on this topic would be a bad idea, because people have varying capacities to handle travel. For example, the first time I ever flew without a parent (13 years ago), I was 7 years old, and I went with my older brother who was 10. We flew from Chicago to Colorado with no incident. However, that doesn’t mean that every 7 or 10 year old can handle it-many can’t, and shouldn’t try. It’s something that the parents themselves should decide, because they know their children better than the airlines do.

    Also, be careful when talking about “minors” flying alone on airplanes. I didn’t turn 18 until I was already a sophomore in college- should I have had special accommodations because I was technically a “minor”? Different airlines will treat this issue differently. Applying a blanket policy will take away the options that come in an open marketplace of ideas. If I only had one option, because every airline was required to treat “minors” in the same manner, my travel choices would have been limited, not expanded.

    6/23/2010 09:13

    There in lies the problem. Minors and elderly that can not take care of themselves should not fly alone. Airlines are not babysitters. I have always considered that to be negligence on the parents. Sending your minor child on a plane (or bus) across the country, or across the world alone, who knows what could happen. These are the same “parents” that drive up and drop their child off at a mall for the day, then wonder why they get a call from the police that their child was found dead in a ditch. they always say “How did this happen?” You left your minor child unattended. take responsibility for yourself and your children. be a REAL parent.

    6/23/2010 09:16

    Could never find the “start a new comment” button so I post this and hope it is in the correct location.

    “DOT Department of Transportation believes that a severe peanut allergy counts as a disability.” So does that mean I can claim disability for my allergy to onions? How about people that are allergic to strawberries, pollen, dairy, ect. We have GOT to put a stop to this. The government is taking TOO MUCH CONTROL. These whiny people that can’t take care of themselves, expecting the government to pass laws so that they don’t have to do anything. Why should I have to do without something just becasue you can’t have it? GROW UP, be an adult. No one is FORCING you to eat, breath or even be around peanuts. Want a peanut free zone? get a plastic bubble. Banning peanuts from planes would be as dumb as making separate flights for people that are allergic. I am so tired of hearing people complain becasue the world does not rotate the way they want it to. GET OVER IT. You are not the only person in this planet. We do not all bow down to your every command. YOU are the MINORITY. You adapt to our world or you stay home.

6/2/2010 20:20

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It’s about time that passengers had some sort of recourse. I missed multiple connections due to the fact that the plane I was on was grounded without any explanation from the staff – not to mention the lost luggage stories. Imagine being stuck in China without a change of clothes. Thanks a lot airlines.

6/2/2010 20:25

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I have no problem with the new regulations, however, in fairness should there be penalties or requirements for the passengers? Sometimes some delays are due to passengers. Everyone gets upset about a delay but extending it to have everyone get off and back on is not the airlines fault but they must pay for the delay? As far as overbooking is concerned, perhaps the airlines would not overbook if the DOT required that airline tickets purchased are “use them or lose them” or carry an instant penalty – meaning the value of the ticket is instantly reduced by 50%. The airline can’t afford to have empty seats, yet people just don’t show up or make last minute change costing the airline which ultimately costs other passengers. Everyone has to realize there is going to be a cost to the consumer if there is a cost to the airline. I also would like to see minimum standards set for leg and arm room done by the DOT. It may help some of the irritation that comes with flying.

    7/20/2010 00:13

    I proposed an answer to overbooking in another area. I repeat it here. The airlines know how many seats they have on a flight and how many tickets they have sold for the flight. Each passenger should be guaranteed a seat up to the number of seats on the flight, after that passengers should be sold standby seats numbered 1-n, first come, first served. This is neat and simple and there is no question of who gets a seat if they show up.

6/2/2010 20:25

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It is long past time that the airlines treat passengers, their primary source of income, as customers they cherish and not the nuisance we’ve become. It has been said that new fees and penalties will only be passed to the passenger already struggling with higher fares and convenience fees of all kinds. Passengers need to remember that the airlines are still a competitive environment. If you don’t like the fare, go elsewhere or fine some other mode of transportation. Southwest has been a shining example of what the legacy airlines should look forward to if they don’t treat customers right. I’ve also found plenty of international airlines far more willing to treat me well on those coveted long haul flights and have completely refused to fly any American airlines on a long haul out of the country as a result. They’ve lost my business and until they lose more, they may never learn. They should be allowed to go out of business and let someone else without the legacy problems to have a go at it. American consumers deserve better. Until then, it’s Air France or Lufthansa for me!

    6/6/2010 23:30

    As a frequent traveler, I would welcome the rule requiring 24 hour refundability of fares + all fees. Additionally, there should be a certain window, say, 3 days prior to flying where you should be able to cancel your flight without penalty and receive a refund or at least the ability to change your itinerary without fee.

    As I always say to all who will listen, the airline model is one of the worst business models I know of: treat your customers with disdain and make it as inconvenient as possible for them to use your product. Whether it be added fees to check luggage (now even charging for carry on bags); making it too costly to change your itinerary; making it virtually impossible to easily use frequent flyer miles or charging an exorbitant amount to actually use them; not getting timely notice when there are delays to flights or, even worse, when a flight has been canceled; and lastly, being treated like cattle at the airport and on the plane.

    6/14/2010 19:39

    You make an interesting comment about the airline business model. Do you have any ideas about how airlines might treat their customers better without having to increase prices? Or do you think that simply treating customers well–along the lines you suggest–would more than make up for lost revenue by attracting more business overall?

    7/20/2010 00:34

    Southwest has a pretty good business model; they are cheerful and friendly and accommodating. And their fares are still mostly bundled. When the airlines changed their business model they reduced service AND increased fares, they just claimed they were trying to be fairer to the customers. And they definitely don’t have a cheerful, friendly, accommodating business atmosphere. I predict that airlines are hastening their own demise when they engage in their anti customer and certainly unethical behavior.

6/2/2010 20:33

I think there need to be rules regarding airlines changing flights that passengers have already bought. We have had airlines change our flights many times and it always ends up with a big hassle and us being upset. The last time we booked a flight from Orlando to CA at Thanksgiving with a layover in Texas. The airline decided to cancel the route through Texas and rebooked on a flight through Boston. We were traveling with small children and specifically chose the flight through Texas because it is shorter and avoided bad weather. When I called to resolve the issue, there was no offer of a refund at all. The best she could do was send me through JFK instead. When my husband called the next day she said they couldn’t offer a refund because I had already made a change. The refund was never offered to me or I would have taken it. A refund should be automatic when the airline changes your flight on you.

    6/2/2010 20:54

    Thanks KT1975 for the interesting comment. Another aspect of the proposal is timely notification of changes in a travel itinerary.

    In your experience, did you receive a timely notification? How quickly should airlines notify you?

6/2/2010 20:33

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I have an issue with airlines changing my flight after I booked, and leave me no recourse. I booked a flight in November from Orlando to Texas to CA. The airline decided to cancel my flight and book me through Boston instead. There was no offer of a refund, but they were able to put me through JFK – not much better. Passengers should be offered an automatic full refund in this situation. It has happened 3 or 4 times to me – and not always the same airline.

6/2/2010 23:21

Airlines should not be allowed to charge for items necessary because of factors out of the passengers control. For example: charging for blankets when the airline controls the cabin temperature, meals on flights over 5 hours long ond water when passengers aren’t allowed to bring their own from home. (as a side note: I say bringing from home because we are restricted from bringing liquids past security but are gouged when purchasing it in the terminal. Not sure whose jurisdiction that is but it too should be addressed).

Seat size and configuration (arm and leg room) should be addressed as a health issue. The inflight magazines show exercises passengers should do at their seats to prevent deep vein thrombosis but there isn’t enough room to do them.

And finally, I think it is unfair if not criminal and discriminatory to charge exorbinant fees for carrying your pet onboard with you. The carrier is handled as a carry on bag solely by me, the airline doesn’t do anything yet they carage $100 or more each way. Again, not sure of the jurisdiction but glad to be able to mention it.

Thank you

    6/2/2010 23:39

    Agreed. The most frustrating thing about airline travel is the lack of space. I don’t see why they care so much about letting people game the bumping system, but not at all about personal space.

    I guess the big question is, what’s DOT’s job, exactly? Is this about in-air convenience? Avoiding price-gouging? Or something else?

    7/20/2010 17:43

    Lack of space should be at the top of the list of issues the airlines need to address. Whenever you hear about new airliners (the big 300) they don’t mention improved arm and leg room. I can handle the commuters because typically you aren’t on there long, but cross country is killer in those economy class seats. If they were ergonomically designed and comfortable, maybe they would be better, but they are terrible for lumbar and leg support. You could probably save space by using more comfortable materials that are slimmer in design. Even the same leg room with a 3″ wider seat would be great. Maybe a pop up foot rest/block from the floor to rest your feet on. .Air travel has really just become a necessary evil you have to survive. It’s certainly not something enjoyed or eagerly anticipated any longer. I avoid it if I can and consolidate my trips whenever possible. I would rather drive 10-12 hours in my car than fly at this point.

    7/20/2010 17:29

    I travel with my dog about twice a year. Because he is 28 pnds, he has to be checked and travel in cargo. It costs anywhere from $300-400 round trip to take him. I would rather be allowed to put him in a carrier that is secured by the seat belt and have him travel in the seat next to me (that I purchase a ticket for), especially if I have to pay the same or more for his ticket in cargo as I do for mine. The cost and stress of handing him over to cargo is wearing me down and I will most likely not take him on some future trips so they will loose my business. If the airlines could make their processes more customer & dog friendly, it would make travel much more enjoyable. I’m sure my dog would behave as well or better than some humans in the cabin.

    7/26/2010 19:22

    Note that while liquids cannot be brought through security, I have found that empty water bottles are OK and then can be filled at a drinking fountain or rest room. Also, some airports do not gouge people for food and liquids.

6/3/2010 01:14

Airlines should absolutely reimburse passengers whose bags are not delivered on time or lost. A time period must be specified–it cannot be left for the airlines to decide.

Yes, carriers should refund ticket costs for significant delays. Actually, they should give consumers the choice between a refund or some other form of compensation for those travelers who decide their time has become too short for travel due to the delay and change their travel plans.

Significant delay must also be defined by DOT.

It’s too bad that this industry has become so anti-consumerist. Self-regulation has not worked and the consumers have carried a significant burden because of it.

6/3/2010 17:53

As to the delivery of delayed baggage: Airlines are treating people who are home different from those visiting; as well as those who are more than 30 miles from the airport. Most domestic carriers are using FedEx or UPS to return delayed luggage. If my bag is delayed on Friday, arrives on Saturday the airline gives the bag to FedEx Monday and I get it Tuesday! How is FOUR DAYS making an effort? ALL airlines have delivery services at every single last little airport. These services will go anywhere! The airlines just don’t want to pay! Airlines must DELIVER the luggage within 12 hours if you live/staying within 50 miles of the airport and 24 hours within 200 miles (from the time the luggage arrives at the intended airport). Most states have regional airports but people drive past them to get to the larger airports to save money on airlines such as Southwest. Just because Grandma’s house is over 50 miles from the airport does not mean I should be without luggage for 2, 3, or four days.

    7/15/2010 11:51

    You realize, though, that this is a risk that you take when you travel in an airplane. There are risks associated with every type of travel, and lost or delayed luggage is a risk associated with flying. While it’s extremely inconvenient to be without luggage, it would be unrealistic to expect that luggage will always be on time, just as it would be unrealistic to expect always to avoid the risk of traffic when deciding to drive. When you choose to fly, you also choose to adopt the risks of flying, from loss of life to loss of luggage.

    Speaking of UPS, they are now offering a new service to customers: they will ship your luggage, so you can mail it ahead of time or avoid the risk of losing your luggage in transit. I think it’s interesting that solutions to this problem are coming from outside of the airlines themselves. Here’s a link to that story:,0,328838.story

6/3/2010 19:14

Airlines should be required not only to notify passengers to changes in their itinerary, but to offer the passenger a chance to refuse the change being made and re-schedule the flight to meet their travel needs. It is absolutely unfair of the airline to mandate that I accept a change to my flight departure time that now conflicts with the purpose/timelines of my trip without offering me an option to say “no thanks, I chose a 2 pm departure for a very specific reason, please offer me another option that doesn’t disrupt my plans”. There should be no “change fee” charged to the consumer who turns down the airline’s change to their itinerary and opts to re-book the flight.

Way back in January I booked a flight to NC with very specific choices made to ensure that I had enough time between flights and that I arrived within a certain window of time. The airline proceeded to change my itinerary on three separate occasions, ultimately putting me on the flights I had specifically avoided when I booked the ticket. When I called to ask if I could re-book to meet my travel needs, I was told that the airline would charge me a change fee of “at least” $180, plus the difference in ticket price on that day. This is absurd. In any other industry I don’t have to put up with the retailer replacing my apple with an orange and then telling me, if you *really* want the apple, you have to pay us more for it.

    6/12/2010 14:55

    You make an excellent point! I hope this is also considered by the DOT

6/4/2010 00:23

Offering lowest fare available – reservations software are not all written the same. Convoluted solutions on unusual but valid routings exist but often defy being found. As a matter of practice, with availability changing constantly, it would be a near impossibility to enforce this unless software is rewritten in a consistent manner, plus it would have to track complete historical availability at each instant in order to enforce the rule. The intent is great, but I think unattainable and unenforceable.

    6/14/2010 19:18

    I think the overriding issue with this industry is that there is no real oversight and they have a lot of rules with no transparency. Why can I not purchase a ticket and then have it transferred to someone else if I cant make the flight? I own the ticket, paid for the ticket, etc. There is no security threat as the person would arrive with a ticket in his or her name and have to show ID for the ticket. That is absolutely unreasonable. There is no other good or service you can buy that you cannot transfer once you have paid for it.

    6/14/2010 20:03

    Transferability is a good suggestion. What if there are people who know for sure that they do not want to transfer their ticket? Should the airlines have a mandatory transferability fee, which they would then refund to people who end up not transferring their ticket?

    7/20/2010 00:54

    Transferability and any other “change” type fees are for revenue production only and not for services rendered. They already are using our money for free sometimes for months in advance. Most of us make changes online at negligible or no cost to the airline. For those who call a real person there is already (usually) a service fee for that as well so they are really double dipping.

6/8/2010 01:05

The rules definitely need to be spelled out as specifically as possible and should apply to all airlines – I don’t trust the airlines to develop and enforce their own policy.

    6/8/2010 01:14

    Thanks for the comments Vec. Do you have an specific reason or experiences that lead you to suggest that policies need to be spelled out for airlines?

    Do others out there think that airlines need to have regulations spelled out with specificity? Or do you think that airlines should have some leeway to develop their own individual policies?
    Why or why not?

    6/8/2010 02:05

    Previous experience with getting bumped off a flight (I was using miles) and the airline refused to put me on another carrier’s flight – instead I had a flight that was six hours later with absolutely no compensation. Basically the customer servie rep’s attitude was “It’s not my problem and you’re using miles so we owe you nothing.”

    6/9/2010 13:09

    That’s ridiculous. I agree that there needs to be some compensation for those who use miles.

    Also, airlines’ refusal to put people on other airlines’ flights has long annoyed me.

    6/23/2010 14:14

    I have no problem with airlines developing their own policies vice a mandated government requirement but whatever those policies are they need to be easy to find, easy to read and understandable by your “average” person before someone books and pays for a flight. If you want to regulate this then insist that all policies related to overbooking, rebooking, rerouting, basically any changes to the originally contracted flight must be made available in a format that is easily accessible and understandable to the general public.

6/9/2010 17:59

It would be better to have fewer promises the airline has to keep than having misleading or never communicated standards.

    6/11/2010 23:55

    It seems that so many people on this forum want perfect, cushy, super-convenient, AND inexpensive airline travel. Unfortunately, that is IMPOSSIBLE. Since airlines have to be competitive AND make a profit for their investors, things will NOT be perfect. Also, since people are human, there will be errors made by airline personnel. Some of these comments just sound like people want to do what they want (cancel last-minute) but yet get 100% of their fare refunded regardless if the airline is able to sell that seat or not. In other words, it sounds like “to hell with the airlines”.

    Remember, the more regulations government puts on companies, the more prices go up.

    6/12/2010 15:00

    Regina: no one expects perfection. But the way slots are allotted at airports has created monopolies in many markets. So there is, in reality, no “competition” which would solve the problems consumers are having in the air. Its time for the government to step in and make sure that passengers are treated respectfully and that codes of conduct are standardized across the industry.

    If you look at the history of other industries you’ll find that government regulations have not caused prices to rise. In fact, regulations have forced these industries to be more efficient and prices have actually dropped. So I think this argument is a spurious one.

    7/4/2010 00:13

    Pauline, could you point me to a specific example of when a government regulation has stepped in to regulate and make industries more efficient, while offering lower costs and more options for consumers?

    I’m quite interested to hear, as this is my focus in a lot of my research, and I have had much trouble finding examples.

    7/4/2010 00:16

    I also think it should be noted that a lot of airlines do follow some of these rules on their own, and would most likely lose out on a lot of business without adopting such options. That being said, if I would like to travel on the cheap, realizing that it could come at a cost of worse customer service, in a lot of situations, I’d be willing to live with poorer service for lower prices.

    7/4/2010 01:15

    Thank you for commenting. If you don’t mind sharing, what are you researching and to what purpose?

    7/4/2010 21:46

    I am a university student, and I’m not doing anything this summer, but I have done free market research for different papers and what not for school, and helped a professor with work on F.A. Hayek and Ayn Rand. So, nothing specifically about airlines, but markets and regulations in general, and most of what I have read (admittedly skewed toward laissez-faire policy) points to all evidence showing regulations being counter-productive.

    7/15/2010 12:35

    Actually, there are over 50 US air carriers to choose from, so although the airline industry is not perfectly competitive, it certainly is not monopolistic. Since the end of the CAB (that is, since the beginning of airline DEregulation) air travel has become much more competitive and fares have dropped dramatically. According to the GAO, fares fell by 30% (adjusting for inflation) between 1976 and 1990 because of deregulation, and have fallen another 25% since 1991. Here’s an interesting article about the lower costs and greater availability of air travel due to airline deregulation:

    7/20/2010 01:10

    Regina I haven’t noticed many people specifically saying they wanted inexpensive airline travel, although certainly that would be desirable. What I hear is that people are tired of being shabbily and unethically treated and often being cheated when the airline doesn’t follow through on their stated policies about lost baggage and other similar items and when the airlines make significant flight changes to the detriment of the passenger with no leniency or compensation. If the airlines were regulating themselves and were treating their customers ethically and courteously there would not be this urgent need for more regulation.

    7/20/2010 01:31

    The rules should be standard and they should be specific and they should apply to all commercial airlines in American air space and there should be significant and mandatory fines imposed for violation of the rules just like there are for aircraft safety . If the rule is not specific and does not apply to all the airlines will find ways to avoid it.
    The additional standards mentioned should be included.

    6/11/2010 23:56

    It seems that so many people on this forum want perfect, cushy, super-convenient, AND inexpensive airline travel. Unfortunately, that is IMPOSSIBLE. Since airlines have to be competitive AND make a profit for their investors, things will NOT be perfect. Also, since people are human, there will be errors made by airline personnel. Some of these comments just sound like people want to do what they want (cancel last-minute) but yet get 100% of their fare refunded regardless if the airline is able to sell that seat or not. In other words, it sounds like “to hell with the airlines”.

    Remember, the more regulations government puts on companies, the more prices go up.

    P.S. With the economy the way it is, more regulation like this will only make the airlines have to cut jobs, thus raising unemployment

6/12/2010 14:54

Thank you to Ray La Hood and the others at the DOT for putting forward these sensible rules. I would be VERY much in favor of:
-Requiring carriers to reimburse baggage fees when luggage is delayed or lost (and defining how long a delay is on a piece of luggage)
-Setting one set of minimum customer service standards for all airlines that fly within US airspace (a LONG overdue step)
-Refunding ticket costs when there’s a significant delay (the time limits suggested seem reasonable to me)
-Requiring carriers to disclose the history of flights before a ticket is purchased

I also agree with others who have suggested that if the airline changes your itinerary after you’ve paid, you should have the right to get a full refund on that trip.

I think these are appropriate for both foreign and domestic flights, and should be part of the carriers contract of carriage.

For those arguing that regulating the industry will raise prices, I’d suggest they look at the history of other regulated injuries. Often the changes industry have had to implement to comply with government regulations have led to them becoming more efficient organizations. And in these cases prices have gone down not up.

Remember, the airlines are not just carrying cargo, they’re transporting human beings. And it’s important that there be enforceable standards for how these humans are to be treated when in the sky. I, for one, am happy to see the end of this “Wild West” of the American airline industry.

6/13/2010 05:41

If you charge for a service (delivery of a bag on flight 100), and do not provide that service… then a refund is in order. Package services refund based on service actually rendered, so why not airlines?

Two hours is reasonable in most cases. It depends on the passenger, and may require more complex itenerary tracking. On a flight to Hawaii, my bag was delayed about 4 hours, and delivered to my hotel. No big deal. If I had been flying somewhere to take a cruise, that could have been a very big deal.

Some carriers already do this, in certain circumstances. I have been able to get refunds from regional carriers for taking a bus. It is, however, impossible to get this information from the central reservations number (they don’t know the regional carrier’s policies, just code-share the tickets), and the lines at the airport are usually so long that it’s almost impossible to talk with anyone FROM the regional carrier to find out if the refund applies. Mandating it would simply enforce an already unwritten policy, and provide guidance to the central reservations people about what compensation is due.

I think it needs to be spelled out. Particularly to include refunding frequent-flyer miles. At 2 cents a mile, you think they’d be more willing to give those back.

Some travel sites already have on-time estimates. I think all carriers should provide that. Maybe a flight is cheap, but never actually takes off.

What is so special about an international airline. Planes are planes, customers are customers. Just because you fly between countries doesn’t mean that service is more difficult. The airline should, of course, only be responsible for the delivery of passenger and bags TO Immigration/Customs. If there is a hold in Immigration/Customs, that’s a different government department to deal with.

If the airlines decide to reduce benefits in the contract of carriage, that might actually be a good thing. Right now, it’s a roll of the dice. You HAVE to stand in the 1 hour long service line because you MIGHT get a refund, or a few bucks… I’d rather know that it wasn’t coming, and to give up and get a hotel, than to stand in the line and beg like a puppy for a treat.

Customers should be able to sue the airline in any appropriate jurisdiction. If the airline doesn’t have a lawyer in said jurisdiction, I’d hope they can FLY ONE THERE!

    6/14/2010 15:59

    I found your point about time delays interesting. Do you think a person who needs absolute timely delivery of luggage, by informing the airline of such a need, should be treated any differently then then the person who is not terribly inconvenienced by a 2-4 hour delay?

6/21/2010 14:47

Unable to make corrections of duplicate name and misspelled name to online reservations on AA website. AA was supposed to send a confirmation to my e-mail address and did not. After the flight, I now have to jump through hoops to get a copy of the reservation for my use. I needed to call Spirit Airline directly to get a refund for a paid reservation during their strike instead of having them automatically contact me about refunding my purchase price.

    6/21/2010 17:00

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Do think the proposed changes could have helped you in that situation?

7/8/2010 12:47

Policies on all of these issues should be uniform and transparent. Nothing is worse that trying to “negotiate” a situation with a peeved ticket agent in a crowded and stress-filled airport. I recently took a Delta flight into JFK with a fairly tight connection. We actually arrived a bit ahead of the scheduled time, but there was no gate available so Delta parked our incoming flight on their tarmac and bussed us to the gate in a Delta bus. Unfortunately, it took the bus so long to pick us up from the flight that virtually no one on the flight was able to make their connections. Then, when I learned that the next flight was six hours later, the agent refused even a meal voucher for the delay. Their position? the delay wasn’t Delta’s fault (of course, whether something is the airline’s fault is, you guessed it, defined by the airline itself . . . great) At one point, I asked whether I could cancel the trip and get a refund. The agent gave me a dirty look and pointed me to a phone line across the lobby. With clear and balanced rules, I could have read them, known my rights, and dealt with things efficiently rather than having to be at an information disadvantage.

    7/9/2010 09:53

    So, just who did the agent think you were going to call? And I’m assuming the agent didn’t volunteer a number of a powerful ‘dispute resolution’ manager. Hey, you could have at least had fun with this rude agent by using the pointed at phone to call up ‘that’ agent across the lobby and proceed to ask your reasonable questions again. At least then your agent would have a legitimate reason display the “dirty” look. lol

7/15/2010 20:47

It is essential that federal government sets minimum standard for customer service for all airlines. The current contract of carriage from the airlines are all one sided that strongly favor airlines. The airlines only care about their profit bottom line and have no concern for passengers well being. The only way you can make them change their bad behaviors is the financial penalty (incentive). Once you bought the ticket you are at mercy of the airline. They can reschedule the flight, delay the flight, change non-stop flight to multiple connections, etc. all without compensating passengers. However, if passenger want to change anything they will be hit with huge changing fee plus fare increase. In most other industries customers are the king. Only in airline business passengers have no (minimum) rights. I was once being delayed at airport for 10 hours and United only offered $100 voucher. They even knew the delay (mechanic problem) the day before and won’t notify the passengers. When I found out the delay and asked to be put on other airline’s flight they would not do it. They don’t care I missed the event or my kids got sick because of the long delay. If they will be hit with huge financial penalty for such a long delay (which is predictable) they will definitely behave differently. It is time that airlines give back some basic rights to the passengers.

7/16/2010 18:17

So much of the experience depends on the ticket, gate and baggage agents. Yes, they’re overworked and overwhelmed sometimes, but they are in the customer service business, and they should serve their customers (we who pay to fly on their airlines). Most are pleasant and helpful (or try to be). A rude, snarky gate agent (clearly on a power trip) had me swear never, ever to fly Northwest again. And I haven’t. And won’t. Being told that an assigned seat is not actually an assigned seat is also not good customer service. But when twice, in 4 months, our United flights from San Francisco home to Dulles were delayed and we ended up flying into BWI 6 hours after our scheduled arrival, at least the agents were kind and pleasant and seemed to try to be helpful.

    7/18/2010 12:14

    This comment to me shows that we don’t need regulation. If people behave the way that Bernice does, choosing to no longer fly with an airline that does not provide adequate customer service, these customers “vote” with their money saying that this experience needs to be fixed, or else we will take our business elsewhere. It really is in the airlines’ best interests to serve customers well in order to retain customers and gain a good reputation to get more customers. In a competitive industry, being able to separate your company as being better than the rest gives you a huge advantage.

7/17/2010 01:44

I am concerned about the length of time customers are put “on hold” or spend trying to navigate automated call centers. I posit that this industry, among others, is costing the American public an enormous amount of time, money and productivity due to wasting the customer’s time. I wonder if a mandatory maximum waiting time could be legislated beyond which there would be either a fine or a credit to the customer. I believe that a maximum waiting time could be established and that beyond that waiting time the customer should be offered a call back appointment from the airline without losing the customer’s place in line.

    7/19/2010 13:10

    Thanks for your comment, peterell. How might airlines be required to guarantee a limit to wait times? Perhaps they should be required to keep minimum staffing levels based on the time of day, or day of the week?

7/18/2010 13:13

Yes, it is workable to have a single set of MINIMUM customer service standards that apply to all airlines. With all the emphasis on airline security, there is NO reason baggage should be lost – but if it is the airline should fully compensate passengers for losses as well as provide full reimbursement for clothing, toiletries, etc. purchased to replaced lost items. Airlines should be required to reimburse passengers for expenses when their baggage is delayed for more than 2 hrs. – purchase of personal items, clothing, toiletries, etc. until the baggage is delivered. In both cases, devil is in the details – both passengers and airlines need to be protected. Yes, airlines should be required to fully refund all types of tickets/charges when there is a cancellation or significant delay and passengers choose not to fly. All of the proposals should apply to all sizes of airplanes.

7/18/2010 13:25

I did not see mention of compensation for non-weather related delays/cancellations. There should be a minimum level of compensation e.g. meal voucher for every 4 hours of delay… hotel vouchers or reimbursement if a flight is canceled. My last experience w/ UAL cancellation was some economy class passengers received meal and hotel vouchers, others did not (they indicated they purchased non-refundable tickets just like a lot of other passengers). There was no consistency. In one instance, the customer service desk agent said he ran out of hotel vouchers…there should be an airline contingency plan that is communicated to all passengers involved.

7/18/2010 15:22

Most airlines have forgotten that the customer is there for their sake, not the other way around, hence service plans should be explicit and fair. Follow the golden rule, treat passenger the same way you, the airline, would like to treated.

7/25/2010 19:15

The terms should be part of the contract of carriage.

Interpretations should never be left to the side that is contracted and paid to provide the service. We have seen that behavior with the cable companies

The DOT should require compensation for both fees and lost bags. If the bag shows up later and is sent to the traveler at his/her convenience the traveler may opt in to reverse that lost bag charge.

If the bag is not there when you get off the plane it is lost period. We have enough modern technology to insure that lost bags are a rare exception.

If the passenger cannot get to his/her destination within 2 hours of the scheduled arrival the traveler should have the right to have a refund for any ticket immediately and on the spot and for the amount paid inclusive of all fees.

If they want to publish the history tat is fine as long as it is accurate and certified so by a third party.

There is absolutely no reason to prevent a traveler from suing.

Whichever regulation that governs foreign carriers that is more favorable to the traveler should be the effective one.

7/27/2010 18:15

I put the following comments on another section of the board, but it also applies in here as well

All the problems described in this survey are due to the fact that, in reality, there is minimal competition in the air transportation field in this country since companies are allowed to pick and choose the areas they serve. The cabotage regulations, promulgated at the infancy of the industry to protect US carriers from foreign competition guarantee that the airlines can inflict anything on the public without fear that their clients, who most times have only one or two and mostly no other carriers flying from one city to another, can go to a competitor. This anti-competitive environment might have been needed years ago. In the 21st century it is time to allow competition from foreign airlines, that already have flights to practically most US cities to carry passengers from, at least their first gateway city withing the US to their final destination. This way, the most congested routes, for example Miami to New York City, or New York to San Fransisco, will have plenty of flights available to prospective passengers. Foreign airlines already fly between those cities, most times half or three quarters empty. Let us utilize these empty seats at a logical price without being subjected to the whims of the US airline monopoly.:

7/30/2010 12:34

Your new requirements are excellent and warranted. I have copied them below to reinforce my support for their implementation.
I would add to all of the ideas below that when flights are significantly delayed or canceled, the passenger’s ticket should be tranferable to another carrier who has a flight with open seats leaving for the same destination shortly — and that the agent should expedite that change for the customer.
* Requiring carriers to reimburse passengers whose bags are not delivered on time or lost, for any baggage charges the passenger paid.
* Defining a specific time period after which a bag is considered to be not delivered on time (e.g., on the same or earlier flight; within 2 hours of arrival)
* Requiring the carrier to refund ticket costs — including for non-refundable tickets — when a passenger chooses not to travel due to flight cancellation or significant delay. Should DOT Department of Transportation define “significant” delay (e.g., 3 hours on flights no more than 2 hours long; 4 hours on longer flights).
* Spelling out that refunds must include not only the base ticket price but also any optional fees (e.g., baggage, fees) that the passenger paid
* Requiring carriers to disclose the history of a particular flight — e.g., it is chronically late or frequently canceled — before a ticket is purchased.

7/30/2010 23:22

Why can’t airlines agree on what they will do for customers when they screw up? Government needs to step up to insure proper protection of consumers from poor judgement by the airlines.

7/31/2010 15:59

I think safety records should be available. Also the lateness of particular flights/routes. There should be a penalty for late luggage that is based partly on the charge an airline makes for luggage (so if I pay $50 for that bag, it should be much higher than if I pay nothing for that bag). I also think there should be rules against charging different prices for aisle, window, and middle seats. This is particularly an issue for people flying in groups; for example, should a family have to pay more to sit with their children? Since the cost of flights differs so much, this does not seem fair.

8/4/2010 10:06

When is a contract not a contract? When it’s in an airline contract of carriage. The rule should require every air carrier to tell all plainly and clearly, and back it up. I don’t want the government to make a one-size-fits-all mandate (they’re not so good at that). Just make the carriers tell it plainly and put it in the contract.

8/4/2010 22:51

I agree with the proposed required customer service rules.

8/29/2010 09:48

Customer service should be with live people, not electronic operators. Passenger rights should be clearly spelled out in the same way that cruise lines spell out their Terms and Conditions and their Insurance Plans.

Also think airlines should have insurance plans for cancellations.

Finally, why not adopt a reservation system similar to cruise lines, whereby a reservations requires a deposit with a final date for final payment. The deposit can be fully or partially reimbursable or totally non reimbursable depending on clearly stated conditions–such as vacation periods, destination, category of fare, etc.

8/29/2010 11:20

Refunding fare charges is the best way to deal with lost bags, long delays, cancellations. These refunds should be unconditional.

8/29/2010 13:14

As a business traveler I need to have someone I can speak with when a delay or cancellation occurs so I can advise clients at the other end of the delay and the opportunity to reschedule the meeting.

8/29/2010 13:27

I think it is terrific that DOT is, based on its experience with customer service plans, setting minimum requirements. All of the requirements listed seem reasonable. I would not want to fly with an airline that did not do those things.
With respect to the listed additional standards, I think it is important to note that if a bag is not delivered within 2 hours after the passenger landed on the first leg of a round-trip flight – it could be problematic. Whereas if it were delivered that late on the second leg of a round trip and the carrier later delivers it to the traveler’s home it may not be such a big deal.
Similarly, if the round-trip flight is over a long weekend, it is more important for the bag to catch up with the traveler quickly, but if the round-trip is over a two week period in one place and the airline delivers the bag to the traveler within a day it may not be as big a deal.
Refunds for bag fees on lost bags seems appropriate.
As to fees and taxes, I believe refunds should include any fees and taxes the carrier has not otherwise been required to pay to someone else.
I also believe carriers should reimburse travelers for lost bags. If the carrier fails to deliver a bag on-time, that also should be reimbursed – however I believe the definition of “on time” could be flexible.

8/29/2010 14:09

Sad but true, I think airlines will need to have minimum customer service standards dictated to them. Yes to all of the proposed solutions by DOT.

8/29/2010 16:35

All proposals are reasonable and should apply to all carriers and all agencies (e.g., travel agencies, etc) who are involved (for fees, delay history, etc)

Airline Passenger Rights "Customer service plans"

Agency Proposal
By the Regulation Room team based on the NPRM
Agency Documents
1 26


Since April, airlines are supposed to have a “customer service plan” explaining what they will do for passengers in areas like ontime baggage delivery, handling customer complaints, services when flights are canceled, etc. But each airline was free to decide exactly what it would do in these areas. Some airlines came up with good plans — others didn’t. And the requirement didn’t apply at all to foreign airlines. Now DOT Department of Transportation is considering telling airlines exactly what services consumers are entitled to, and extending the requirement to many foreign carriers.

This post will tell you more about what the problems have been, and what solutions DOT Department of Transportation is considering — and alert you to questions DOT particularly wants people to comment on.

2 8 The Problems:

Although US carriers now must have “customer service plans” informing consumers how the carrier will deal with several key passenger rights issues, federal law doesn’t specify what airlines must do in those situations. Some airlines’ have done good plans, but others are so vaguely written that passengers still don’t know how the carrier will handle the problem — and whether the carrier has fulfilled its promises.

Also, the plan requirement applies only to US airlines. Many travelers fly to and from the US on flights operated by foreign carriers (either directly or through a code-share arrangement with a US carrier). It’s not clear whether foreign airlines generally have some similar plan that protects travelers when problems occur.

Finally, although DOT Department of Transportation told US carriers that their customer service plans ought to be included in the airline’s contract of carriage, many carriers haven’t done this. The contract of carriage is the legally binding agreement between the airline and passengers, which the airline has to make available to consumers. DOT can enforce compliance with the plan requirements in any case, but consumers can enforce the contract of carriage themselves (including suing in small claims court, if necessary.)

Related to consumers enforcing the contract of carriage, some airlines have included a term in the contract that forces passengers to sue in a court somewhere very inconvenient, rather than in the court where the passenger lives.

3 10 The Proposed Solutions:

DOT is thinking about setting specific standards that airlines must commit to in their customer service plans. It is also considering applying the plan requirement to foreign carriers who use any aircraft that seat 30 or more people (even if a particular flight uses a smaller plane.)

From reviewing many existing plans, DOT Department of Transportation considers the following as industry “best practices” that should perhaps be required from all covered carriers:

  • Offering the lowest fare available — The airline would always have to tell prospective travelers what its lowest available fare is, whether the consumer is using the airline’s website, is at the ticket counter, or calls the airline’s reservation number.
  • Notifying consumers of known delays, cancellations, and diversions — See Flight Status Information.
  • Delivering baggage on time — The airline must make “every reasonable effort” to deliver mishandled bags within 24 hours; it must compensate passengers for reasonable expenses caused by the delay.
  • Allowing a period when reservations to be held, without payment or cancellation penalty — The airline must let consumers make and “hold” a reservation at the quoted fare for at least 24 hours before payment, and allow cancellation without charge during that time.
  • Providing prompt ticket refunds — Refunds must be made within 20 days of when the refund request is completed.
  • Properly accommodating disabled and special-needs passengers, including during tarmac delays — See Tarmac Delay.
  • Meeting customers’ essential needs during lengthy on-board delays — See Tarmac Delay.
  • Handling oversales/bumping with fairness and consistency — See Ticket Oversales/Bumping.
  • Disclosing important aspects of travel — The airline must disclose cancellation policies, frequent flyer rules, aircraft configuration, and lavatory availability on its website and, the the traveler requests, by its reservations line staff.
  • Notifying consumers in a timely manner of changes in their travel itinerary.
  • Ensuring good customer service from code-share partners — Airlines must make sure their code-share partners have adopted their own service plan, or have comparable service plans.
  • Ensuing responsiveness to customer complaints — See 14 CFR Code of Federal Regulations 259.7
  • Identifying services available to help passengers when flights are canceled or connections missed.

DOT has a lot of open questions about other possible “minimum standards” it should require carriers to include in their plans. See the next section.

Finally, DOT Department of Transportation is considering requiring (rather than just strongly suggesting) that the customer service plan be included in the the airline’s contract of carriage. And it might now make clear that it’s an unfair and deceptive practice for the airline to try to prevent passengers from suing in the courts of the place where they live.

4 33 What DOT Department of Transportation wants to know from you:

Is it workable to have a single set of minimum customer service standards, set by the federal government, that apply to all airlines?

Are there additional standards DOT Department of Transportation should be considering? These might include:

  • Requiring carriers to reimburse passengers whose bags are not delivered on time or lost, for any baggage charges the passenger paid.
  • Defining a specific time period after which a bag is considered to be not delivered on time (e.g., on the same or earlier flight;  within 2 hours of arrival)
  • Requiring the carrier to refund ticket costs — including for non-refundable tickets — when a passenger chooses not to travel due to flight cancellation or significant delay. Should DOT Department of Transportation define “significant” delay (e.g., 3 hours on flights no more than 2 hours long; 4 hours on longer flights).
  • Spelling out that refunds must include not only the base ticket price but also any optional fees (e.g., baggage, fees) that the passenger paid
  • Requiring carriers to disclose the history of a particular flight — e.g., it is chronically late or frequently canceled — before a ticket is purchased.

Are any of the proposed minimum standards particularly inappropriate for foreign carriers? Do similar plans already exist for most foreign carriers? Should plan requirements never apply to flights with fewer than 30 seats?

If airlines were required to make their plans part of the contract of carriage, would the result ultimately be worse for consumers because airlines might make fewer promises in their plans if they feared being legally liable for not following the plan in unpredictable situations?

Is there any good reason to let airlines restrict where passengers can sue to enforce their rights?

See what DOT Department of Transportation said on this issue: NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: the official document announcing and explaining the proposed rule Section 3, Section 11.

See the proposed rule text on this issue: Sections 259.5Section 259.6

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