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US Airlines Must Now Refund Lost Bag Fees; Give 24 Hours to Cancel Flight; Display Fees Upfront, and More…

The US Department of Transportation is rolling out a host of new regulations for airlines that are designed to be customer-friendly initiatives that give both greater transparency to consumers and also help clarify some customer service issues. You can read the full text here, but in short:

- International airlines and US are now required to return to the gate if their aircraft sits on the tarmac at a US airport for 4 hours for an international flight. This augments the current 3-hour rule for US flights.

- US and International airlines must now reimburse customers for the bag fee they charged if the airline loses the bag. Stories in the popular press are leading with this new rule, but the stories I’ve read have not been clear: you only get the fee refunded if they LOSE your bag, not if they get it to you the next day.

- If you paid added fees for, say, preboarding and your flight is canceled, the airline has to reimburse those fees.

- Provided you are booking at least a week in advance, you have 24 hours to cancel your flight without penalty.

- Increases involuntary bump penalty to $1300 from $650 (including for those flying on frequent flyer tickets).

- Airlines must now include a link to baggage fees on the fare display pages of their website. Also, and this is helpful, they must tell you the difference in fees between their airline and the airline actually carrying you on the flight (ie, a codeshare partner). In addition, airlines must give 3 months notice if they want to change baggage fees (this feels unnecessarily regulatory to me…)

- Airlines must alert passengers if their flight will be delayed by 30 minutes or more (and they have 30 minutes to do this once they find out about the delay)

There you go…the stories I’ve read about this focus on having to show the baggage fees up front, but this isn’t as big a deal, as the airlines can just place a link on their site to the bag fees. I think the biggest change is the ability to cancel a reservation within 24 hours (Spirit had pushed back on this rule as it was originally proposed, which led to them modifying it so it’s only on fares booked a week in advance). All the other regulations, while customer friendly, are pretty much outlier situations. But the ability to cancel (which some airlines to already offer), is a helpful feature to passengers without being too draconian for airlines. I’m surprised the government has actually come through with these – they tend to side with the airlines.

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