Friday, April 15, 2011

Freebie Friday: Free Checked Bags on Airplanes (Er....When the Carrier Loses Them, That Is)

Photo by Jeremy Foo
Last year, when the government implemented heavy fines for every hour, after three, that an aircraft full of people sat on the tarmac, the airlines cried foul, insisting that the new regulations would lead to mass cancellations of flights and even more inconveniences for travelers.

Instead, the number of passengers trapped in planes for hour after hour dropped to almost zero; there was only a slight increase in the number of canceled flights (which some think may be due to the unusually bad winter weather); and fewer flights were delayed overall.

Now, the government will be implementing a rule that will force airlines to return baggage fees when a bag is lost or delayed. Will this new fine--oh please, oh please!--mean fewer lost bags? We can only hope!

What it does do is a redress a wrong that has long rankled travelers. According to Scott Mayerowitz of the AP, the  airline will be required to return the fee if luggage is not delivered in a "timely" manner. "Timely" in this context remains undefined. But a source Mayerowitz quotes hazards a guess that the standard will be two hours.

Of course, the airlines are pushing back. Air transport spokespeople have that this move could cause the airlines to raise fares. But with such basic fairness at stake (really, airline execs you think the public should pay even if you don't get their bags to them?!?), I think the only logical response to that threat is "Go ahead! Make my day."

Other regulations that my personal hero, DOT Secretary Ray La Hood, will be adding are:
  • Increased compensation for bumped passengers
  • Better disclosure of fees by the airlines
  • And a new rule that would allow passengers to cancel airline reservations within 24 hours without penalty
As I noted earlier, the airline lobby will be fighting against these new rules. If you like them (and I certainly do!), I urge you to write a note to the DOT itself, expressing your support.

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