After a chaotic summer travel season, passenger complaints have been soaring, prompting the Biden Administration and the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) to propose new regulations to protect passenger rights. In the latest new regulations, the Biden Administration will soon announce a proposed rule requiring airlines and third-party travel sites to be more transparent.

Passengers have the right to know

Under the soon-to-be proposed regulation, airlines and third-party travel sites will be required to immediately disclose any additional fees charged from the first moment the airfare is displayed. The other charges typically range from choosing a seat for families or choosing a different seat for lone passengers, changing or canceling the flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage.

Especially in the case of low-cost carriers, passengers tend to be attracted to the cheaper airfares but are in for a surprise at checkout once the overwhelming additional fees start piling up. To reduce such unpleasantness for passengers, the proposal seeks to provide passengers with all the required information upfront, so they can choose the best deal without any hidden costs.

It’s time for the full display

So far, the Biden Administration’s and US DOT’s proposals have primarily been aimed toward changes within US carriers. Under this new proposal, foreign airlines will also be included, as will the third-party sellers of air transportation and online “meta-search” sites. The proposal requires the disclosure of passenger-specific and itinerary-specific baggage fees, change fees, cancelations fees, and family seating fees to passengers.

The entire display of prices will be required for all flights to, within, and from the US and will also be required to be highlighted as passenger-specific or itinerary-specific based on the passenger’s choice. And because seat availability and fees fluctuate based on demand and season, the proposal also requires airlines and ticketing agents to enable passengers traveling with young children to purchase the seats with the airfare at all points of sale. This would align with US DOT’s previous warning to airlines to stop charging extra for seating kids with family.

It’s for sure that this new proposed rule will be quite the win for passengers, as US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized:

“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket. This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which help travelers make informed decisions and save money.”

Airlines must also provide useable and timely information regarding their hidden fees to ticketing agents that sell and display the airline’s airfares and flight schedules. Photo: Denver International Airport

Airlines would have to make changes…again

While the change would benefit passengers, it would take quite an unpleasant toll on airlines, as these new rules tend to do these days. From the dashboard to policy changes on compensation, it might seem that airlines can’t catch a break. However, the new proposed rule arose for a good reason, as it was revealed that the top US airlines made nearly $700 million solely on cancelation and change fees alone.

And though it would become quite a hassle for airlines now, the regulation will eventually stir up more competition within the aviation industry regarding prices. With spurred competition and every airline wanting to attract more passengers, flyers might also start seeing airlines launching new routes, increasing frequencies, or improving their soft products faster than anticipated. After all, airlines need to start showing passengers why their services should be worth their money.

Source: The Washington Post


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