The latest blow in the war between airlines and passenger rights organizations was struck February 11th, when FlyersRights.org filed an 18-page petition asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to cap the flight change fees charged by carriers on international plane tickets at $100. According to a USA Today story, FlyersRights.org President Paul Hudson claims that international change fees have risen up to $750 in recent years. A lawyer for the organization, Richard Baxley, states that two provisions in federal law grant the Department of Transportation the power to set “reasonable rates and rules” and to “take action directly against unfiled passenger fees and rules.” The petition states that the Department of Transportation should utilize its authority to intervene on behalf of travelers.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s own 2014 stats, airlines collected $2.8 billion in reservation change fees in 2013. Representatives of the airlines defend the fees as an effective tool in discouraging last minute flight changes and assuring fuller flights, thereby lowering cost for the carriers and customers. Airlines for America, an industry organization that represents the largest carriers, claims that the petition represents unneeded participation in the marketplace.
The U.S. Department of Transportation now has the option of implementing the group’s recommendation, rejecting it or ignoring it. There is no deadline for the Department to select its course of action, however a rejection or long delay could result in the group filing an appeal in federal court.
Travel and Transport will continue to keep an eye on this evolving story. A skilled, accredited travel counselor can provide travelers with the cost of potential change fees before booking. Contact a Travel and Transport travel expert to find out how we can assist companies and travelers in avoiding and lowering flight change fees.
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