New rules on airline fees take effect Thursday

The ticket price touted in airline advertising should be the price you pay under new federal airline regulations intended to save passengers from hidden taxes and fees.

The rules, which take effect Thursday, should make it easier for passengers to determine the full price when they book airline tickets.

“Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.”

The rules require that airlines include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares and that they disclose baggage fees to consumers buying tickets.

Under another rule, passengers now will be able to hold a reservation without payment for 24 hours or cancel a reservation during that period without penalty. Airlines also will be required to notify passengers of delays of more than 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions. In most cases, they will be prohibited from increasing the price of passengers’ tickets after purchase.

Until now, airlines have been allowed to list government-imposed taxes and fees separately from the advertised fare.

In addition, airlines must disclose baggage fees when passengers book a flight online. Information on baggage fees is required on all e-ticket confirmations.

The new rules tighten federal regulation of airline advertising. AirTran Airways was fined $60,000 this month for advertising last fall that trumpeted online $59 one-way fares. There were a couple of asterisks but not enough elaboration. Although the ads mentioned that additional taxes, fees and exclusions would apply, the U.S. Department of Transportation said there was no explanation of what those taxes or fees amounted to until a would-be passenger clicked on the ad and then scrolled to the bottom of the page, where the information appeared in fine print.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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