The Department of Transportation’s new guidelines force airlines to reimburse passengers who are bumped from their flight twice the price of the purchased ticket (up to $650) unless they make other arrangements to get the passenger to their final destination within a couple of hours of the original arrival time. The longer the delay, the bigger the reimbursement: if the arrival time is delayed too long, passengers can claim up to four times the value of a ticket, up to $1300 (compared to $800 today.)
The rules also require airlines to prominently display all baggage, handling, cancellation, and amenity (food, pillows, etc) charges on their websites so no one is theoretically surprised when they get to the terminal or on their flight.
Perhaps most notable for people who have been trapped in a stuffy plane sitting on the tarmac for hours are the new DOT fines for airlines that let passengers sit for more than four hours: the government can fine the airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for the delay. You won’t see any of that money, but you bet the airlines won’t want to pay it out. Instead they’ll leave on time or cancel a flight, in which case they have to arrange for your next one.
These are just the rules that go into effect this week. Airlines managed to delay an additional set of measures until January 2012 that hopefully, when combined with these changes, will make air travel a little less stressful.