By now, you have probably heard about the new airline regulations that were set to go into effect last week (last week of January, 2012). I have been getting calls and emails about it all week and there seems to be some mass confusion over what this means to you, the consumer. The new regulations are entitled “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections #2”. As always when there are governmental regulations made or changed, there is a massive amount of material. If you would like to see the rules and some Q & A about them you can go here. Below I will explain what I believe are the major points of interest for you.
I believe one of the biggest advantages to the consumer is that the airlines are now forced to show the entire cost of the purchase, including taxes and fees on the advertised price. I know many of you have found a great “deal” only to be surprised by the total when you finally get to the page where you put in your credit card information. This is because online sites have traditionally only shown the amount of the fare excluding any additional charges. This is part of the reason the online websites have generated such great “deals”. This will no longer be the case. Any advertised rates, by anyone in the travel industry, will now be the total of your fare. No more surprises!
Another big change is that now you must be made aware of the baggage fees that you are facing. The baggage fee information must now be printed clearly on your e-ticket. I know that if you bought airfare and were not told you may have suffered sticker shock when you got to the airport. This will no longer be a “gotcha” for those purchasing through a website or otherwise booking on their own.
The DOT has now banned the practice of post-purchase price increases in air transportation or air tours unless the increase is due to an increase in government-imposed taxes or fees and only if the passenger was provided full disclosure of the potential for the increase and affirmatively agreed to the potential for such an increase prior to purchase. So, in simple terms, they cannot raise the price of your ticket unless it is for a government fee and you have to be made aware of it before you purchase so there are no surprises. Of course, this only pertains to your purchase until you have the purchase paid in full.
Airlines now must make flight delay information available within 30 minutes of finding out. This means they must post on their websites and any other available mean, such as the apps and carrier notification systems.
There are numerous other changes that you will probably never become aware of because they don’t directly affect you but do the travel agent, such as, insurance can no longer be an opt-out on a travel quote. It now must be requested when getting a quote from our supplier. Previously some of our suppliers had insurance added and it had to be opted-out of by the requester. Of course, on your side of the fence, I always include insurance and require a waiver of insurance if you opt out. That will not change, only how I request the quote will.
All in all, the regulations are actually very much in your favor and are designed to clarify purchase and travel for the consumer. As a travel agent, I know that we always strive to give our customers the information they need so there are no expensive surprises. When in doubt, check with your agent. We are here to help you make the most of your travel.