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Airline passenger rights expanded

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Coming & Going

Expanded airline passenger protections, hotel lobby makeovers, Pet Airways’ new destinations

Good news for passengers

Travelers, your day has come — finally. The Department of Transportation last week announced new passenger protection rules for airlines.

From now on, if an airline loses your luggage, it also loses your baggage fee, which it will be required to reimburse.

Airlines will have to prominently disclose all fees — include those for checked bags, meals and upgraded seats — on their Web sites. And ticket agents will have to include all government taxes and fees when quoting fares.

“Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in announcing the new rules.

Passengers who are bumped from oversold flights will also receive better compensation. If the airline is able to get them to their destination within two hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights, or four hours for international flights, they could receive double the price of their tickets, up to $650 (the previous limit was $400.) For delays exceeding two hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights, they could receive four times the value of their tickets, up to $1,300 (previously twice the value of their ticket up to $800).

The new rules also expand the ban on lengthy tarmac delays to foreign airlines flying out of U.S. airports and set a four-hour limit on tarmac delays for international flights of both U.S. and foreign airlines unless there are safety, security or air traffic control-related issues.

Lobby or living room?

The next time you walk into a Hilton or Holiday Inn, it could feel as if you’re walking into someone’s living room.

Hilton Hotels last week unveiled its new lobby design at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, part of a $40 million renovation of the property. The centerpiece of the lobby is an 18-hour bar serving coffee, grab-and-go specialties, shared plates and specialty cocktails. Replacing the traditional business center is a Technology Lounge with PC and Mac workstations and a communal work table. And guests will check in at pod-style front desks.

Holiday Inn will launch a “Social Hub” this year that will combine the front desk, restaurant, bar and business center into one 5,000 square-foot area. The idea is to let guests interact with friends, family, staff and one another outside their rooms. The chain will also upgrade its food and beverage menu. Among other new features that could come to a Holiday Inn near you: an outdoor fire pit, a media lounge, multiple big screen TVs, a 24-hour food market and soft seating options such as couches.

A pilot social hub will debut at the Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., near Atlanta, in June, with a more extensive rollout planned after the company studies guest feedback.

Flying pets

Pet Airways, the only airline designed specifically for pets, is spreading its wings.

This summer, it will begin flights to St. Louis, Houston, Austin, Dallas and Orlando. You can start making reservations for the inaugural flights this spring. The Orlando facility will have a new style of pet lounge with enhanced services, such as grooming.

The new destinations bring the number of cities served by the airline, which began operations in 2009, to 14. The others are Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale.

Travel Ticker

On May 17, Icelandair begins nonstop service from Washington Dulles to Iceland, as well as connecting flights to Europe, Scandinavia and the U.K. To kick off the new service, the airline is holding a contest for the best photo connecting Washington to Iceland. The prize: two round-trip tickets on the inaugural Washington-Iceland flight, two nights at the Icelandair Hotel Loftleidir, and a pair of tours. Info: www.icelandair.us/dc. . . .Dulles and Reagan National now offer free Wi-Fi. You’ll be directed to a page for Reagan National Complimentary Wi-Fi and Dulles Airport Complimentary; you’ll have to accept the terms of service before continuing. For customer support, call 1-866-849-2850.

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