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New consumer-friendly DOT regulations

Finally, some good news for air travelers. On Friday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued new air travel recommendations, and among them were two consumer-friendly policies.

The DOT now requires airlines and travel agents to disclose fees for checking a second bag in both Internet and print advertisements—before travelers purchase tickets. “Travelers have been surprised to learn of these new fees after they have already made their travel decisions,” quotes Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters as saying. New or increased fees and restrictions may not be added after a passenger has booked a ticket.

The DOT will also require airlines to report more complete data about the time delayed flights spend on the tarmac. Currently, airlines are not required to report flights that depart from a gate more than once, flights that are cancelled after having left the gate, or flights that are diverted to other airports. “Passengers should know whether it will take as long for their flight to get to the runway as it will to land at their destination,” Peters said.

Although New York’s short-lived passenger bill of rights was overturned in March and a federal bill does not seem imminent, these new DOT measures are a step towards protecting passengers. It may seem obvious—of course airlines shouldn’t be able to add new fees to a ticket after a passenger has booked, and carriers should report complete data about flight delays—but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case until now.

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