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DOT travel announcement and Q&A: October 19, 2016, 10am-12pm PDT

DOT travel announcement and Q&A: October 19, 2016, 10am-12pm PDT

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Old Oct 18, 16, 10:25 pm   -   Wikipost
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:40 am
  #31  
 
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After Northwest v. Ginsberg, a consumer’s only avenue of complaint/redress is the Department of Transportation as the court's are basically no longer an option.

The data from this year's Inspector General's report showed that the DOT does not pay attention or enforce regulations when frequent flyer programs change terms without notice.

When is the DOT going to step up and use the enforcement options it has to regulate frequent flyer programs in a meaningful way to protect consumers?
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:41 am
  #32  
 
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Thanks to USDOT for engaging the community here. Besides the above concerns, I was wondering if there's any prospect to address the issue of dubious "direct" flights using the same onward flight number which are actually separate aircraft, which is not always clearly disclosed in the booking channel. This practice causes consumer confusion and often imposes disparate impacts in terms of how a carrier will handle/modify a passenger PNR, or award certain benefits, due to the "system limitations" caused by the married segments.

Common sense would dictate that the same flight number should only be used in cases where the passengers are allowed to remain on board the aircraft during the intermediate layover (as Southwest sometimes does), and that any such stops should be clearly disclosed, or in cases where the same flight number is used for an out-and-back round-trip (AAA-BBB-AAA). Carriers have sometimes claimed that not practicing "direct" flights would cause them to run out of flight numbers to allocate, and any such potential impact should of course be studied. But there's a compelling case for consumer protection to end this deceptive and confusing practice.

Originally Posted by US Department of Transportation View Post
The issue of “mistaken fares” will be addressed in a upcoming rulemaking. Please refer to the DOT significant rulemaking agenda for the latest schedule, item #81.
https://www.transportation.gov/regul...nt-rulemakings
Is there any future scope to similarly regulate post-purchase price increases by interstate ground transportation carriers (i.e. Amtrak and Greyhound)? Amtrak recently changed its cancellation policy and imposed the new, less-favorable terms on existing, paid bookings. This would be an illegal practice for airlines or businesses in other industries. Given USDOT's intimate position to guide Amtrak's governance, perhaps this would be appropriate for the agency to address.
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:41 am
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Hairbus380 View Post
This. I frequently travel light, without checked bags, and would hate to have those costs bundled into my base fare.
In response to Hairbus380 (1:11pm):

The Department is not opposed to unbundling fares. The Department is focusing on transparency of fares and fees that have been unbundled. The Department is looking at whether information on fees for certain basic services such as checked baggage should be disclosed to consumers at the same time as the airfare.

Last edited by IBJoel; Oct 20, 16 at 9:13 am
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:42 am
  #34  
 
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DOT: Right now there is a mountain of difference in IRROPS whether you are booked on Spirit or Delta. If a flight is canceled by a LCC without interline or partner agreements, you may be stranded for hours, if not days, due to lack of frequency and airline partners they can put you on. Whereas with a legacy carrier, you are much more easily accommodated. LCCs will often simply flat out refuse to pay for, or put passengers on, competing carriers.

Is the DOT is looking into rulemaking in this area at all?
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:49 am
  #35  
 
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Originally Posted by keitherson View Post
DOT: Right now there is a mountain of difference in IRROPS whether you are booked on Spirit or Delta. If a flight is canceled by a LCC without interline or partner agreements, you may be stranded for hours, if not days, due to lack of frequency and airline partners they can put you on. Whereas with a legacy carrier, you are much more easily accommodated. LCCs will often simply flat out refuse to pay for, or put passengers on, competing carriers.

Is the DOT is looking into rulemaking in this area at all?
Related question: Is there any plan to implement an equivalent of EC261 in the US so that passengers that are delayed to their destination due to the fault of the airline can receive clear and specific compensation, regardless of carrier?

Also, I'd love to see stricter requirements for pricing transparency; IE, if you want to 'unbundle' certain services that are generally thought to be included you need to be VERY clear what the fare does and does not include (and this requirement should extend to anyone that displays such a fare, including services like Kayak, google flights, expedia, corporate booking systems, etc.
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:51 am
  #36  
 
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Originally Posted by george 3 View Post
Hello DOT, Thank you for taking the time to be part of the Flyer Talk community today. My question is this. When airlines are fined (heavily) for a tarmac or runway delay of over three hours, why is the fine not redirected to the passengers that had to sit through it? It feels like this is another opportunity for revenue enhancement for the federal government.
+1

Any and all punitive fines for delays/etc to passengers or their property should be mandated to be provided to the PASSENGERS directly, and not to the government.
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:52 am
  #37  
 
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Originally Posted by US Department of Transportation View Post
In reply to mehrdeg (1:00pm):
This is interesting feedback. Thanks!

Originally Posted by US Department of Transportation View Post
(3) The Department issued a Request for Information regarding the effects and implications of airline practices that restrict the distribution or display of airline flight information by online travel agencies or metasearch entities that operate flight search tools in response President Obama’s Executive Order to Spur Competition. The Department is seeking comments from all the stakeholders to advance the Department’s understanding of market dynamics.

With that said, Southwest has an uncommon business model because it sells its tickets directly to consumers and not through online travel entities. While we have heard concerns from members of Congress and from online ticket agents and metasearch sites about how airlines that sell through third parties restrict access to certain fare and schedule information, no one has suggested that Southwest should be required to change its business model.
Fascinating. So maybe the DOT *is* exploring a rule about whether or not Delta should be allowed to block its inventory from ExpertFlyer. I do wonder how these proposed changes would affect airline competition.

Thanks for following up!
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:54 am
  #38  
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Originally Posted by DeltaWings View Post
Hello,

Thank you for making yourselves available today to answer questions. I'd like to start by asking for clarification of the following:

"Protecting Air Travelers with Disabilities: The largest U.S. airlines will be required to report on how often they mishandle wheelchairs."

By "mishandle," do you mean damage? What about passengers (like me) who routinely face airlines that refuse to return gate-checked wheelchairs, or do not do so in a timely manner? These are instances of a chair not being handled properly, relative to the requirements set forth in the Air Carrier Access Act.

Why does it seem as though the DOT only takes enforcement action against airlines for ACAA violations once a story has gained national attention? (i.e. United and the passenger that crawled off a plane at DCA)

In addition to fines, you have the ability to send cease and desist letters regarding disability violations. Why is that not being done in the face of repeated violations?

How many people do you have assigned to investigate ACAA violations in the Air Consumer Protection Division?

Thank you again for your time.
In response to DeltaWings (1:07pm, #6):

DOT is committed to ensuring that that the air transportation system is accessible to everyone. The passage of the Air Carrier Access Act represented a watershed moment for non-discrimination in air transportation. But, at about 150 words, the Act was short on specifics. Congress entrusted DOT with bringing it to life. The Department’s rule requiring reporting of mishandled bags is one way of DOT bringing the ACAA to life. DOT is requiring airlines to report the total numbers of wheelchair they transport and the total numbers of wheelchairs that are damaged (mishandled) during the transportation. The reports must include gate checked wheelchairs as well as wheelchairs checked at the ticket counters.

The Department’s existing regulation requires airlines to return passengers’ wheelchairs, either gate-checked or counter-checked, in the same condition as the carriers accepted them, in a timely manner. Failure to do so would be a violation of our rule. Passengers can send complaints to DOT at https://www.transportation.gov/airco...umer-complaint. We investigate each disability complaint that we receive. We also routinely conduct inspections at airlines’ headquarters and at airports to identify compliance deficiencies and keep track of complaints filed with the Department to spot problematic areas, particularly pattern of practices that indicate noncompliance. These inspections and reviews have resulted in numerous consent orders over the years. We have about 40 attorneys and Transportation Industry Analysts working on enforcing ACAA and its regulation.

Last edited by IBJoel; Oct 20, 16 at 9:41 am
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:58 am
  #39  
 
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Thank you to DOT for initiating this discussion.

I have a number of questions:

1) Why does the proposed delayed bag refund apply only to those who paid for a checked bag? Lots of passengers, especially in the frequent traveller community, get complimentary checked bag, so how shall they be treated in equivalent circumstances?

2) Since I notice that a lot of passengers travel with gate-checked luggage, what compensation do you envisage in legislation for those cases when a bag is gate-checked but does not travel on the plane for various reasons (usually mishandling by ground staff)?

3) How do you define "substantially delayed" in terms of numbers/metrics? Having flown from A to B in the morning, a hypothetical passenger may be catching a late evening flight back from B to A. Not having a checked bag may be of immense inconvenience, especially if said passenger was going onto a cruise and not flying back to A that night. Leaving this wording to be interpreted by airlines could lead to more bad than good.

4) What Service Level Agreements will airlines be forced to adhere to in terms of reuniting passengers with their bags? Next flight to the same destination (even if on another carrier)? Overnight courier delivery to an address of passenger's choosing? I do not think it is appropriate to suggest here that it is for airlines to decide and state on their websites for customers to then make a decision. There must be a uniform policy for all airlines. Should airlines wish to go above and beyond, especially for elite status passengers, THAT should be up to them.

5) When will DOT move to make it legally binding to require for airlines to compensate for non-TSA damage to bags? As it stands, if I am not mistaken, it is not mandatory for airlines to reimburse for bag repairs/replacements.

6) Why are travel agents currently treated differently to airlines in terms of the right to cancel a reservation within 24 hours for a full and prompt refund? From a customer perspective, a travel agent is no different to airline -- these days airlines even offer additional travel components such as hotels, car hire, etc like travel agents themselves do -- so both should be treated the same in terms of the minimum required customer service and protection standards.

7) What is DOT planning to do to tackle consumer-unfriendly pricing practices whereby a direct flight often costs much more than a journey that goes on to another smaller destination? For example, an NYC-LAX flight may cost $600, but an NYC-LAX-somewhere_small may cost substantially less because airlines wish to attract more passengers. However, this pricing model leads to unsavoury throw-away tickets being purchased and disadvantages those travelling just between hypothetical examples of NYC and LAX in good faith

8) Airlines benefit handsomely from being able to sell tickets in the days and weeks leading up to a hypothetical flight. To that end, what are DOT's thoughts on taking away airlines' ability to keep 100% of the fare (sans certain fees they must refund) when a customer wishes to cancel a ticket months from departure? Not only do airlines retain a substantial portion of the cost, but they are also free to sell that seat again at even greater profit while the customer is out of pocket.

Thank you in advance.

Last edited by techie; Oct 19, 16 at 12:55 pm
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Old Oct 19, 16, 11:58 am
  #40  
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Originally Posted by appleguru View Post
+1

Any and all punitive fines for delays/etc to passengers or their property should be mandated to be provided to the PASSENGERS directly, and not to the government.
That's not so clear. The purpose of the regulation was to incentivize the airline to make better decisions, not to give windfall compensation to some tiny fraction of passengers. Fines will have the same impact on airline behavior regardless of who benefits from the money. In fact, permitting airlines to make payments directly to their customers would have the consequence of making enforcement more difficult and costly, while also displacing customer service gestures that airlines often offer in these situations.
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Old Oct 19, 16, 12:03 pm
  #41  
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Old Oct 19, 16, 12:05 pm
  #42  
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Originally Posted by laxmillenial View Post
Hello,

Why has the DOT not established regulation similar to EU 261? EU261/2004 is a regulation establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights.

Currently, everything is mostly up to the airlines discretion (with the exception of long tarmac delays) and they basically do as they please. Why is regulation not established?
In response to laxmillenial (1:16pm, #10):

Under the Obama Administration, DOT issued two comprehensive aviation consumer rulemakings which today’s announcement builds on. The second comprehensive aviation consumer rulemaking included a requirement for airlines to identify the services they provide to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. Many airlines choose to provide or pay for hotel rooms, meals or alternate transportation under certain circumstances. Those provisions must be included in the airline’s customer service commitment and that commitment by DOT rule must be posted on the airlines website.

Last edited by IBJoel; Oct 20, 16 at 9:42 am
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Old Oct 19, 16, 12:10 pm
  #43  
 
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First off thanks to the DOT for helping me out in cases where the airlines let me out to dry. Your assistance in those cases are greatly appreciated.

1. Question on taxes:
With the changes fees so exorbitant these days that one needs to just throw the ticket away. When can I expect DOT to pass a rule that the airline has to refund the taxes portion of the fare when one does not want to use the ticket?

2. Competition:
What are you doing to reintroduce competition in the domestic market? Allow foreign carriers to fly domestic US?
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Old Oct 19, 16, 12:10 pm
  #44  
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Originally Posted by paperwastage View Post
schumer box for airline fees would definitely be useful

(ticket cost, carryon baggage cost/size/weight, check-in/oversized baggage cost/size/weight, cancellation fee, seat selection fee, name change fee, other optional fees)

baggage policy (size/weight) might be difficult with codeshare flights

same question I have from laxmillenial about EU261 regulation in USA - is DOT/White house looking at how EU261 protects consumers in Europe (along with it's shortcomings as well)?
In response to paperwastage (1:21pm, #15):

With regard to your question about a la carte pricing, the Department is not opposed to unbundling fares. The Department is focusing on transparency of fares and fees that have been unbundled. The Department is looking at whether information on fees for certain basic services such as checked baggage should be disclosed to consumers at the same time as the airfare.

With regard to your question regarding passenger rights should there be flight irregularities, the Department requires airlines to identify the services they provide to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. Many airlines choose to provide or pay for hotel rooms, meals or alternate transportation under certain circumstances. Those provisions must be included in the airline’s customer service commitment and that commitment by DOT rule must be posted on the airlines website.

Last edited by IBJoel; Oct 20, 16 at 9:43 am
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Old Oct 19, 16, 12:14 pm
  #45  
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Originally Posted by joshwex90 View Post
When discussing "marketing airline" for on-time stats, does that only apply to UA/DL/AA/AS and their Express/Shuttle/Connection subsidiaries/partners, or does it apply to all code-share arrangements (i.e. UA/LH)?
In response to joshwex90 (1:16pm, #11):

The reporting rule only covers U.S. airlines with respect to their domestic scheduled passenger flights. The new requirement pertaining to reporting code-share flights will require marketing carriers (such as UA, DL, AA, AS) to report those domestic scheduled flights carrying their codes and are operated by another carrier. The UA/LH codeshare would be an international flight that is not covered by the reporting requirement.

Last edited by IBJoel; Oct 20, 16 at 9:44 am
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