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Blog: As Summer Air Travel Season Approaches, DOT Works to Improve Consumer Protections

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

As warmer weather settles in, the signs of summer are multiplying--community pools are gearing up for their Memorial Day Weekend opening, schools are holding graduation ceremonies, and families are planning vacation travel.

One thing that doesn't change with the season is DOT's effort to protect Americans when they travel by air. Thanks to our Aviation Consumer Protection Division, we're constantly working to protect people from the moment they begin planning their air travel to the moment they pick up their checked luggage. And today we're proposing new rules to strengthen that protection.

Today's proposal would require airlines and ticket agents to disclose their fees for certain basic airline services such as checked baggage. It would require more carriers to report their performance data to DOT so consumers can be better informed. And, it would put into law DOT's definition of a ticket agent so companies that get compensated for offering flight search tools stick to the rules.

As Secretary Foxx said, "Knowledge is power, and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options. What we're offering today will strengthen the consumer protections we have previously enacted and raise the bar for airlines and ticket agents when it comes to treating travelers fairly."

And fairness, after all, is what every aviation consumer deserves.

Currently, fees for additional services can be difficult to determine when searching for airfares. Many consumers are unable to understand the true cost of travel before purchasing a ticket, and that can lead to unpleasant surprises at the airport. Under the proposed rule, airlines and ticket agents would be required to disclose fees for certain basic, additional services associated with airline tickets at all points of sale:

First checked bag,
Second checked bag,
One carry-on item, and
Advance seat assignment.

The proposed rule would also expand the pool of carriers required to report information about on-time performance, oversales, and mishandled baggage rates. Right now, the threshold covers carriers that account for at least one percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue; we're proposing to broaden our stream of consumer information to any carrier that accounts for at least 0.5 percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue. And, all reporting carriers would be required to provide similar performance data for their domestic scheduled flights operated by code-share regional partners.

On our end, we'll include the data provided by all airlines in our publicly available monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. That means consumers can use this information to make better informed decisions regarding their air travel choices. With more performance data informing consumers' decisions, airlines wanting to stay competitive will want to improve service.

We're also making clear DOT's understanding of the term "ticket agent," which is used in many laws and regulations: The Department considers internet search sites that offer a flight search tool --and other such intermediaries-- to be "ticket agents" for the purposes of the Department's air transportation consumer protection regulations. This is regardless of how these services are compensated for their role in arranging air transportation.

This part of our proposed rule will make clear that those entities must provide consumers with information such as identifying flights operated under a code-sharing arrangement. For example, the rule would cover websites such as Kayak and Google that offer flight search tools with fare, schedule, and availability information.

Our two previous consumer protection rules have already led to better, more fair treatment for the traveling public. Tarmac delays over three hours have been virtually eliminated over the last four years. Passengers are eligible for more compensation when they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight. And passengers now see the full fare--including mandatory fees and taxes--when they first get a price quote.

Today's proposal improves upon those historic protections to further ensure the fairness you deserve.

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