New federal airline passenger protections in works, including baggage fee refunds for delayed bags

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March 8, 2016 Atlanta - Travelers wait for their baggages at domestic terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. or years, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport boasted about how it was the world's busiest airport. Then a colleague of mine learned airport marketers and pr folks dropped the "b" word after finally coming to grips with the idea that maybe it isn't actually a positive in the minds of travelers who deal with all the ramifications of "busy". The pros at the airport came up with another descriptor to use when boasting and talking trash: world's "most traveled airport." HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Airline passengers are about to get new consumer protections under measures being rolled out by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new measures include efforts to institute a requirement for airlines to refund checked baggage fees when bags are substantially delayed. Congress passed a bill in July to require refunds for delayed bags.

The DOT will also consider a new rule to require airlines and ticket agents to list prices with fees for extra services alongside fares.

“Airline passengers deserve to have access to clear and complete information about the airlines they choose to fly and to expect fair and reasonable treatment when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a written statement.

The moves by the DOT come after an executive order issued by President Barack Obama directing federal agencies to consider how to better inform consumers and relieve burdens on competition.

Another requirement will call for large U.S. airlines to report how often they mishandle wheelchairs.

And online travel sites will be prohibited from displaying flights with bias toward certain airlines without disclosing that bias.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it has agreements with the most popular online travel agencies, but said some online travel agencies “have proven to have misleading, deceptive and/or fraudulent business practices.

Under the new federal measures, airlines will also be required to provide a clearer window into their operations, including figures on the total number of mishandled bags and checked bags, rather than only reports of mishandled bags and total passengers. They will also be required to report data on flights reported by domestic code-share partners.

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November 18, 2014 Atlanta – Travelers wait at baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Delta said it welcomes “refreshed reporting around baggage handling,” and said it has invested in baggage handling reliability. The airline also said it welcomes the code-share partner reporting requirements and prohibition of fare bias, and said it continues “to advocate for full transparency of the price of the ticket.”

Airline industry group Airlines for America said portions of the administration’s proposal could drive up the cost of air travel.

“Dictating to the airline industry distribution and commercial practices would only benefit those third parties who distribute tickets, not the flying public,” Airlines for America president Nicholas Calio said in a written statement.


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