Travelers whose bags do not arrive in a timely manner could get the fees charged for those items refunded by the airlines under a proposal from the Biden administration.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is finalizing the proposal and expects to announce the full details in the coming days, according to the Associated Press. The rule would go into effect by next summer.
A department spokesperson told AP that the plan would require a refund of any fees for luggage that does not arrive within 12 hours of a plane touching down on domestic flights and 25 hours on international flights.
Current regulations require airlines to issue refunds only if a bag is lost, although some airlines have their own policies to return the fees. The DOT proposal would mandate it.
A DOT spokesperson said the proposal is one of many planned by the White House designed to give consumers more power. It is also planning mandatory refunds for paid Wi-Fi service if the airline fails to provide it during a flight.
Travel Fairness Now, an airline consumer organization, is in favor of the plan. Executive Director Kurt Ebenhoch called it “one consumer-friendly item in a long list requiring DOT action.”
Ebenhoch said his group is also pushing for refunds for pandemic-related cancellations, stronger rules regarding family seating, and restoration of traveler’s rights.
“There are a wealth of opportunities for the new administration to begin to restore balance, make consumers the priority, and equalize the scales among stakeholders,” the group says.
A DOT official told CNN that several other proposals are in the works, including a rule that would require airlines to inform consumers of all baggage, change, and cancellation fees prior to selling them a ticket.
“This disclosure would stop families from getting hit with hidden airline fees and allow families to comparison shop between flight options more easily so they can get the best tickets available,” the official told CNN.
Complaints to the DOT about airlines have skyrocketed over the past year, with more than 100,000 complaints filed during 2020. That’s a six-fold increase over 2019. More than 87 percent of them were about fees.
Baggage, change, and cancellation fees added up to more than $8 billion in 2019, according to DOT figures.
John Breyault, a vice president with the National Consumer League, is encouraged by the proposals and the early efforts of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. But his organization wants to see results, and at a quicker pace.
“The proof will be in the pudding whether this DOT will make consumer protection a real priority after four years of benign neglect, at best, and active regulatory sabotage at worst,” Breyault told AP.
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