Too late for the summer season — but better late than never — the U.S. Transportation Department is responding to frequent consumer complaints with proposed new rules that could take some of the frustration out of flying on commercial airlines.
The new rules may be designed to head off the expected howls from vacationing fliers during the upcoming summer season. It's shaping up as crowded because of fewer flights, and more expensive due to increased demand by business fliers.
Add to that the potential disruption that may result when airlines cancel flights rather than take the chance of being hit by new fines of up to $27,500 for each passenger kept waiting for more than three hours on the tarmac before takeoff.
This new rule took effect in April and may result in more cancellations during the summer due to increased thunderstorms during that period.
The other new rules cover some of the most frequent complaints by the flying public. They include one of the most unfair practices in the airline industry: denial of boarding to passengers with tickets because airlines oversold flights. Consumer organizations call this a practice that consistently draws one of the highest volumes of complaints.
Under the new regulations, the minimum compensation would be increased more than 50 percent, from $400 to $650 if the substitute transportation arrives at the destination one to two hours after the original scheduled arrival; or from $800 to $1,300 if it's longer than two hours.
The airlines would be required to inform passengers that they can be compensated in cash instead of the travel vouchers that the airlines commonly offer as an alternative. For airlines, it's an incentive to end the practice of overbooking altogether.
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