(WASHINGTON) -- For Americans who have had their baggage lost on flights, or who have spent hours stuck on the tarmac without being allowed to use the bathrooms, a new set of rules the Department of Transportation put in place Wednesday will come as a relief.
The Obama administration has introduced new passenger protection measures that would impose fines on airlines for losing baggage and bumping travelers from overbooked flights.
Under the new guidelines, airlines would have to reimburse baggage fees in the case of a lost bag, in addition to the compensation they already pay. There will be an additional charge for unreasonable delays in getting passengers their bags, though the DOT hasn't clarified what it considers unreasonable.
For international flights, air carriers will have to use the fee applied at the beginning of a passenger's itinerary, even if it's with a partner flight.
In recent years, airlines have hiked their fees for checked bags -- some charging as much as $35 for the first piece -- but consumer groups complain that service hasn't improved with the increased cost. Airlines lost more than two million bags in 2010 and more than 2.1 million in 2009, according to the DOT.
Airlines would also be in double trouble for bumping passengers involuntarily off overbooked airlines. They would have to pay twice what they pay now if they can't get a passenger on another flight between one to two hours of the original flight. Airlines currently have to pay $400. That penalty would double to $800 and increase to $1,300 for a longer delay.
More than 65,000 passengers were unwillingly bumped from their flights last year.
Air carriers would also have to include taxes, fees and other costs -- including what they charge for pillows, checked bags and food -- in the price when advertising their fares. This requirement, the DOT says, would make it easier for passengers to compare prices among airlines.
Passengers could also hold reservations for 24 hours without paying or incurring a cancellation penalty, a practice that some but not all U.S. carriers allow.
International passengers will also get reprieve from long delays on the tarmac. Foreign carriers and international flights would only be allowed a stay on the tarmac for a maximum of four hours before they have to return to the gate.
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