Airlines seek six more months to comply with new DOT rules

By Jerry Limone
U.S. airlines have asked the Department of Transportation for an extra six months to prepare for compliance with the DOT's new consumer-protection rules.

Airlines need more time to "overcome substantial technological problems and properly train their employees," according to a document submitted June 7 by the Air Transport Association of America, the Regional Airline Association and the Air Carrier Association of America.

The rules, introduced in April, include a requirement that advertised fares and air-inclusive packages include all taxes and fees, in print and online. The airlines said this requirement will be the most onerous of all.

"We note that the Department has changed its position on full-fare advertising after 25 years of permitting posting of air transportation prices separate from government taxes and fees," the airlines said. "Carriers have relied on this government policy and built their advertising practices around it. Dismantling the current advertising system and reassembling it to meet the new standards will take multiple steps and will be difficult and time-consuming."

The requirement of full-fare advertising is scheduled to take effect Oct. 24, but the carriers said they need 180 more days to accommodate the "thousands of hours" it will take to code and test new solutions, integrate those solutions with IT systems and implement them.

The airlines also want 180 more days to incorporate changes to denied-boarding compensation rules, which are due to take effect Aug. 23.

Among the new requirements is higher compensation for being bumped. If the passenger can be rerouted to arrive within two hours (four hours on international flights), the compensation is 200% of the fare, to a maximum of $650; otherwise the payment is 400% of the fare, to a maximum of $1,350.

"Each covered U.S. and foreign carrier will have to incorporate these changes into its company policies, procedures and training programs, and will require substantial systems changes and programming," the airlines said.

Also, airlines must list specific charges for baggage fees in all e-ticket confirmations by Aug. 23. The airlines said they are in favor of a hyperlink to baggage fee information on their websites, but not actual fee charges for passengers in the confirmation. Since an individualized solution is more of an IT challenge, the airlines are requesting another 180 days to complete the job.
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