Are the new DOT rules a real step forward or just more bureaucracy? Mark Orwoll, international editor for Travel + Leisure, and Peter break down the implications of the rules that just went into effect last week.
Peter Greenberg: What do you think about the new Department of Transportation (DOT) rules. Is it just enhancing the original tarmac delay rules from a couple of years ago, or is there something new?
Mark Orwoll: The fact is that they are actually coming full circle on some of these rules that they had gotten started on last year. For example, everybody who traveled last year knows the DOT implemented a new three-hour tarmac delay limit. That rule was great, except for the fact that it only covered domestic flights. Well, starting this week we’re going to be having a new rule that requires international flights to obey the delay limit. It’s not a three-hour delay for international flights. They claim that because there aren’t as many international flights taking off compared to domestic, it should be a four-hour tarmac delay. At least there is now a limit on those delays. Thank goodness the DOT has that new rule in place.
PG: You know there’s a message implicit in this rule. The rule seems to say that if you’re flying internationally you’re going to be on the plane for longer, so you should just be delayed longer, too.
MO: I agree. Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, has been one of the great champions for air passenger rights.He’s actually become a hero of mine.
Another new rule is that they have raised the maximum amount of money they will pay for you as a passenger if you’re involuntarily bumped. If the airline oversells its flight and then say to you Mr. Passenger or Ms. Passenger, we don’t have enough room for you even though you paid your money and you checked in – you can’t get on board. The maximum payment was $800, but they raised that more than 50 percent. Now you can get as much as $1300 payable to you in the form of a check if they bump you. That’s if your flight is delayed or if they can’t get you onto another flight for two hours or longer.
PG: Now I’ve got to ask you this question because the real distinction in this new rule, if I’m hearing you correctly, is in the old days they’d only give you a voucher. Are you telling me that they’ll actually give you cash now?
MO: They have to. They have to give you cash if you ask for it. It’s going to be in the form of a check, but that’s fine. Travel vouchers can be bogus. You’ll get a voucher and then they’ll be lots of restrictions on when you can use it. Forget that. Tell them you want a check.
PG: To me, allowing a cash payment is the most significant departure in the rules because the airlines never wanted to part with cash. They always wanted to give you a voucher good for a discount on your next abusive flight. There’s now a situation where you can actually take the money to the bank. I love it.
MO: There’s one more thing I love about the new rules going into effect now. You know the hidden fees that we’ve all talked about so much. It used to be so hard to find out: how much are they going to charge you for a checked bag; how much are they going to charge you for a meal; how much are they going to charge you to cancel or reschedule your flight.
It used to be you had to be a detective to find out these things. Now the DOT says every airline has to prominently display all their ancillary fees in one spot on their website.
It should make it a whole lot easier for those of us that fly to find out exactly how much we’re going to be spending.
By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- DOT’s New Passenger Rights Rules Now in Effect
- The DOT’s New Air Travel Rules Explained
- Passenger Rights on the CBS Evening News
- Passenger Bill of Rights Arrives: The Early Show report