Monday, December 21, 2009

For passengers, at last the right to fair treatment

Throughout the years of the Bush administration, airline passengers filed complaint after complaint. In response, the Department of Transportation asked airlines to agree to some voluntary rules. Few did.

Change is coming. Beginning this spring, when DOT-OST-2007-0022 takes effect, airline passengers will finally have some actual rights -- backed by hefty penalties for airlines that fail to comply.

Under the new rule, airlines will be required to:
  • Provide food and beverages to passengers waiting on a tarmac for more than two hours; and

  • Return planes to terminals and allow passengers to disembark after delays of more than three hours.
Airlines failing to comply will be fined $175,000 per passenger, or more than three million dollars for a 20-seat regional jet.

That's big money, and it's getting the airlines' attention -- so much so that, according to the New York Times, even regional jets that typically don't serve snacks are going to be stocking up on peanuts and pretzels to meet the snack requirements "just in case."

For now, the rule applies to domestic flights only. In the future, it may b e expanded to include international flights as well.

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