New DOT Rules Aim to Clarify the True Cost of Air Travel

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 5, 2024 16:30 PMNews
Man standing inside airport looking at led flight schedule bulletin board
Man standing inside airport looking at led flight schedule bulletin board. Source: unsplash

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has introduced new rules for airlines and travel agencies to enhance transparency regarding airfare refunds and "junk fees," with the goal of helping travelers better understand the true cost of their journeys. These rules impact both the purchase process and post-flight issues, and airlines and ticket sellers are now adjusting their systems to comply with the changes.

The new rules, which are expected to take effect around July 1, have a 60-day window for implementation. During this time, carriers and ticket sellers are updating their websites and processes to meet the new requirements. Consumer advocates have welcomed the rules as a positive step, though they highlight that the European Union's regulations on airline delays and cancellations remain more comprehensive.

Enhanced Transparency

The new DOT rules aim to address the issue of "drip pricing," where additional charges are added throughout the booking process. This practice has become common not only in airlines but also in car rentals and hotels, generating significant ancillary revenue for the industry. The DOT's focus is on protecting consumers, particularly infrequent travelers who book their own tickets online, by ensuring transparency around fees and refunds.

Tackling Extra Charges

One of the key issues addressed is the extra fees charged for families with small children to sit together. The DOT intends to introduce new rules restricting this practice, although some airlines have already amended their policies to accommodate families without extra fees. The DOT also maintains an Airline Customer Service Dashboard to assist travelers.

True Cost of Tickets

The new rules also address misleading pricing, such as promoting one-way tickets at attractive prices without disclosing the significantly higher cost of return flights. For example, airlines often market one-way flights at low prices, but the return tickets can be substantially more expensive, misleading travelers about the true cost of a round-trip journey.

Additional Fees and Services

Checked luggage fees and in-flight internet costs are also under scrutiny. Many airlines charge for checked bags, and some, like Alaska Airlines and Delta, offer free checked bags for specific membership programs. In-flight internet pricing varies, with some airlines offering free Wi-Fi for members and others charging fees that vary depending on the flight duration and connections.

Consumer Protection

The new DOT rules aim to address these issues and hold companies accountable for their promises, ultimately making travel more transparent and consumer-friendly.

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