A Win for Agents Too

As this issue went to press, the Washington politicos actually made progress on an important issue By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

You might find this shocking but, as this issue went to press, the Washington politicos actually made progress on an important issue. This didn't happen in Congress of course (that would be too much to ask), but at the Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Enhanced Airline Passenger Protections rules.

Among the main actions taken by the DOT was to extend its ban on three-hour tarmac delays to all airports regardless of size, as well as to extend the tarmac rule to international flights (with a four-hour limit). Also, according to the new rules, airlines will pay more to bumped passengers on oversold flights, with a new maximum of $1,300, up from $800. Airlines will also be required to refund checked-baggage fees if the passenger's luggage is lost; disclose all ancillary fees on their websites; and allow passengers to hold a reservation for 24 hours without payment, so long as the reservation is made at least one week before the scheduled departure. Also, airlines will have to state all taxes and mandatory fees in advertised fares.

While the DOT strengthened these rules and more, it did sidestep an issue for which travel agent groups, such as ASTA, have been lobbying aggressively -- that airlines be required to post all ancillary services and fees in the GDSs for display and transaction. Leaving the door open on the question, the DOT said it was deferring action because it wants to avoid "unintended consequences, particularly given the sensitive nature of the market and the negotiations currently taking place between carriers and the GDSs."

Still, ASTA praised Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for changing the way in which airlines treat passengers across the board.

"These new rules will materially improve the air passenger experience," said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chairman of the board. "We are hopeful that these changes will reduce the degree of confusion and conflict that often is associated with air travel and will stimulate demand."

Indeed, with summer coming, anything that removes obstacles to travel and helps agents to get people taking vacations is a step in the right direction.
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