The US Department of Transportation continues to become more and more active, not only enforcing existing laws but dreaming up new ones too (well, actually, regulations not laws if you wish to be exact about this).
After having instituted massive penalties for airlines that strand passengers in a plane on the ground, they are now turning their focus to other passenger rights issues.
They are considering increasing the compensation airlines must pay when bumping passengers off planes, possibly requiring airlines to refund baggage fees if the baggage is late or lost, and tightening up some more on how airlines advertise fares (requiring a more simple approach to showing the total fare inclusive of all fees and taxes and add-ons and surcharges).
There are a few other possible issues they may also regulate, including a possible ban or restriction on the serving of peanuts on flights. Is it necessary, sensible, and equitable to restrict or ban peanuts? Read my commentary here, and if you disagree (or if you do agree) feel free to add your thoughts too.
The increase in compensation for bumping passengers would be from the current $400/$800 to $650/$1300. For a comprehensive explanation of your rights if bumped off a flight, please see my multipart series.
Here is more information about the DOT proposals. They are inviting public comment, and being as how the airlines will almost certainly object, it would be appropriate for you to send in a comment in support so that airline objections have at least some degree of public rebuttal. You can see their proposed regulations here - search for docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.
In other DOT activity, they announced fines of $20,000 levied against AirTran and $40,000 levied against Delta.
AirTran advertised an airfare sale with prices 'as low as $39' but an investigation revealed the lowest available fare was actually $44. Delta failed to provide adequate notice of taxes and fees that were not included in certain advertised airfares on its website.
Bravo to the DOT.
May has been a good month for some airlines. Allegiant Air reported a 10% increase in passenger traffic. AirTran reported an 8.4% increase. In Canada, Westjet enjoyed a massive 19% increase.
But Continental Airlines reported a 1.4% decrease in passengers – a curious contradiction to the increases reported by the other three airlines. However, there were probably smiles on the faces of CO executives, because the airline experienced a massive 12.6% increase in unit revenues. Translation – airfares are significantly up compared to this time last year.
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