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Bringing Airlines’ Fine Print to Light

The Biden Administration wants to make it much easier for travelers to know the cost to change or cancel a flight, and to understand up front what other charges might be in store.

Between security lines, flight delays, cramped quarters, and, more recently, Covid concerns, it’s hard to find anyone who enjoys the air-travel experience. And while the sky-high fares of 2022 are expected drop toward the end of the year, just the process of booking a flight can be frustrating when airlines’ add-on pricing isn’t clear.

This should be a concern for meeting professionals, especially those whose attendees have a choice not to register for the event or can simply attend virtually.

The Biden administration has announced several efforts in the past few months to help consumers better navigate their airline interactions, with the latest announced on September 26. The Department of Transportation has proposed new consumer protections that ensure transparency around ancillary fees, requiring that they be upfront when an airfare is first displayed.

In the notice for proposed rulemaking, called the NPRM, the DOT want to “require U.S. air carriers, foreign air carriers, and ticket agents to clearly disclose passenger-specific or itinerary-specific baggage fees, change fees, and cancellation fees to consumers whenever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers for flights to, within, and from the United States.” The NPRM also proposes that fees are clear for adjacent-seating requests when young children are involved.

"You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you're comparison shopping ... so you can pick the ticket that actually is the best deal for you," said President Joe Biden during the announcement.

The proposal is being filed in the Federal Register and, once filed, comments will be taken for 60 days. The NPRM can be found at, docket number DOT-OST-2022-0109.

A few other recent government actions have been taken to improve consumers’ air-travel experience:

• In August , DOT began collecting comments on a proposed rule to ensure customers get prompt refunds when their flights are canceled or delayed.

• In early September, DOT rolled out an airline customer-service dashboard to give travelers easy access to airline policies around rebooking, meals, hotel accommodations, and ground transportation in the event of cancellations and delays. According to the DOT, when the dashboard was published, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, and only one offered free rebooking. However, since publication of the dashboard, nine airlines now guarantee meals and hotels when an airline issue causes a cancellation or delay, and all 10 now guarantee free rebooking.

• In July, the DOT published a 10-point Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, an easy-to-understand summary of the rights of air travelers with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Acts.


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