US Reveals New Airline Fee Disclosure, Refund Rules

( – The Transportation Department will soon issue new rules requiring airlines to be transparent about fees and refunds. The regulations, which took almost three years to devise, intend to save consumers $543 million annually by ensuring they are fully aware of fees and how to apply for refunds for lost luggage, delays, or other airline failings.

For example, all extra costs must be displayed alongside fares, and airlines must return baggage fees unless lost luggage is found and returned to the passenger within 12 hours for domestic flights and 30 hours for international. In the case of cancelations, carriers will be required to refund customers rapidly.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said services will improve as companies compete with each other for business rather than making money through “surprise fees.”

Airlines for America, which represents airline companies, said that US carriers should deliver quality services, including in areas such as fees and refunds.

A Senate Committee recently addressed the issue and stated that it would intensify investigations into the enormous and increasing figures consumers spend each year on airline fees. For example, in 2018, passengers paid $4.9 billion, and in 2022, this had grown to $6.8 billion. Airlines for America adds that the largest 11 companies in the US returned $43 billion in refunds between 2020 and 2023.

The new regulations are expected to take effect in October, with priority on refunds for disruption and delay. All reimbursements must include taxes and fees. These refunds are already legally mandated, but Mr. Buttigieg acknowledged that they are not always issued in practice. Refunds will now occur automatically and apply to domestic flights delayed more than three hours and international flights delayed more than six.

Airlines must also refund for services consumers paid for but didn’t receive, such as entertainment or WiFi. Additionally, carriers must also make clear to consumers that the purchase price, which will include all costs, guarantees a seat on their designated flight.

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