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New rules to protect air travelers

Complaints to the Better Business Bureau about airlines have increased by more than 170 percent in the last five years. Good news is on the horizon, as the BBB explains, new rules and regulations went into effect last month to provide better consumer protection for air travelers.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), most complaints against airlines are about flight problems – including delays and cancellations – and lost baggage.  Some more famous angry customers took their complaints online in the last year by performing songs like “United Breaks Guitars” for YouTube or posting videos of being stuck for hours on the tarmac with other angry passengers.

“Harried air travelers have grown increasingly angry and vocal both online and offline about how they feel they are being treated and the Federal Government is taking notice,” said Ken Vander Meeden, BBB of Western Michigan CEO. “These new regulations will hopefully result in happier fliers and fewer complaints to the BBB.”

The following are the new regulations that go into effect April 29 by the DOT to improve customer protections when flying in the US:

Customer Complaints – Airlines are now required to acknowledge customer complaints within 30 days and address the issue within 60 days.

Tardy Takeoffs – DOT is now allowed to penalize airlines for any domestic flight that is more than 30 minutes late on at least half its trips each month for four months in a row.

Tarmac Tribulations – Airlines are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed – lavatories must also remain available and operable. If the plane is delayed more than three hours on the tarmac, it must return to the gate and deplane the passengers – barring any safety or airport disruption concerns.

Web Site Wait Times – Airlines are required to display on their Web site flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate. The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that the airline industry is asking for an extension on the deadline for compliance on this specific issue because of technology constraints.

Relaying Your Rights – Airlines must include on their Web site a customer service plan which, as recommended by DOT, would outline the company policies in regard to overbooking, baggage handling, handling customer complaints and many other customer service issues.

More information on these new rules can be found online at regulations.gov. Upset airplane passengers are encouraged to file a complaint with both the DOT and the BBB online.

For more advice you can trust to become a smart traveler, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-travel/.

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