The US Department of Transportation rejected a request from US and foreign airlines to delay new disclosure requirements about bag fees, but there will be few enforcement actions as they relate to interline itineraries or code-shares for six months.
This means that starting January 24, passengers should start receiving new information and links about bag fees in their e-ticket confirmation emails.
New rules are slated to go into effect January 24 requiring airlines departing from or landing in the US to disclose carry-on and first and second bag allowances and fees on e-ticket confirmations. In addition, bag allowances and fees in place at the beginning of the trip must apply throughout the itinerary for flights starting or ending in the US.
A collection of global airline associations and a travel agency trade group petitioned the DOT -- or supported the petition -- to delay implementation of the rules for a year despite the fact that implementation had already been postponed for five months.
The petitioners included Airlines for America (formerly Air Transport Association), the International Air Transport Association, the Regional Airline Association, the Air Carrier Association and the Association of European Airlines. The American Society of Travel Agents also backed a delay.
The associations' arguments were chock full of tech-oriented rationales.
The petition noted that there is no central database for bag allowances and fees (although the Airline Tariff Publishing Co. is on track to have one operational soon), and there is no industry standard to communicate among carriers which baggage rules apply.
In addition, airlines lack IT systems and procedures to have their baggage rules databases interact with one another, and they will need additional time to integrate bag allowance and fee data into check-in systems, airport kiosks, ticket counters and websites, the petition stated.
In rejecting the airlines' contentions, the DOT stated: "Consumers will continue to be confused about their baggage fees until the carriers comply with these new bag rules."
Most passengers fly on single-carrier itineraries or those involving US code-sharing between mainline airlines and regional carriers, the DOT said, so the airlines should be able to comply with the new rules regarding these sorts of itineraries. The DOT decision stated:
There is no reason for airlines not to provide consumers accurate information about baggage allowances and fees and to apply the same allowance and fee throughout a passenger's itinerary when it is one carrier that is marketing and operating the flight or the flight only involves domestic code-share service on a regional partner.
So the new rules will go into effect starting January 24.
But, despite rejecting the airlines' petition, the DOT cut the airlines a break on the enforcement end of things.
The Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings will not enforce the provisions for six months as they pertain to "interline itineraries or with respect to code-share itineraries involving international flights, or domestic flights of different mainline carriers, if certain conditions are met," the DOT said.
However, e-ticket confirmations "at a minimum" will have to state that additional bag fees may apply and provide links in the confirmation to code-share or interline partner websites "where the passenger can follow a link and find the baggage allowance and fee information," the DOT said.
In addition, carriers will now have to reimburse passengers for overcharges if they were not charged the same bag fees throughout the itinerary.