Bravo for the US Government Department of Transportation for imposing new passenger protection rules on Airlines with real teeth fines for failing to comply.
Here’s a video from CNN with some of the new rules:
1.Three Hour Tarmac Rule
There are stiff fines for keeping customers on the plane on the tarmac longer than 3 hours ($27,500 per passenger or as much as $3.7 Million per flight) with some exceptions for safety and security. After 2 hours, airlines must provide food and water (snacks such as pretzels and granola bars are acceptable). The washrooms needs to be in working order. Medical attention must be provided if needed. The 3 hour tarmac ruling applies to US Domestic Flights only.
2. International Flight Rules
International Flight rules are not affected BUT airlines have to define and post their tarmac delay contingency plans on their websites .
3. Fines for Chronically late or Canceled Flights
Airlines that create unrealistic schedules that result in frequent cancellations or chronically late flights will face fines. Flights that are scheduled at least 10 times a month and that arrive more than 30 minutes late more than half the time would be violators. If an airline is a violator for 4 consecutive 30 days periods, it would be subject to penalties.
4. Website Disclosure of Delay History
By the end of July, 2010, Airlines must show their delay information for each US domestic flight on the web, so a potential passenger can see it before booking a ticket on the flight.
5. Complaint Process must be published
Airlines must provide passengers a way to complain; an email address, an online form or a mailing address for customers to complain. Complaints must be acknowledged within 30 days and a responded to with 60 days . The response needs to address the specifics of the complaint. The information on how to complain must be provided on the company’s website and on the e-ticket confirmation.
6. Documented Airline Service Plans
The Department of Transport requires airlines to develop and publish on the web their customer service plan that deals with issues not covered in their contracts.(eg baggage handling, overbooking, etc) Furthermore, the airline then has to audit itself and report its results to the US Department of Transportation.
Consumers who believe an airline is not complying with DOT rules should file a complaint through the aviation consumer website, http://airconsumer.dot.gov, by phone at 202-366-2220 or regular mail.
It is sad that the US Government has had to impose these kinds of regulations. One would have hoped that airlines would have provided passengers with these provisions on their own. The airlines do not want to risk any of the fines and they are already complaining about “unintended consequences” of lost baggage, canceled flights and delays. Hopefully this push back by the airlines will settle down and passengers will be the beneficiary of better customer service from the airlines going forward, at least on US Domestic flights. It will be interesting to see what other countries impose within their boundaries.
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