The first wave of the federal government’s air passenger bill of rights takes effect Monday. Here’s a list of what passengers can expect.
Starting July 15:
- Airlines will have to compensate anyone who is denied boarding for situations within an airline’s control, such as over-booking. Delays of up to six hours will cost $900, when the compensation doubles to $1,800; it’s $2,400 if the delay is longer than nine hours. Payment will have to happen at the time the passenger is notified of the denied boarding.
- Airlines will have to provide passengers clear, concise and accessible information about delays, cancellations, denials of boarding, lost or damaged baggage and the seating of children under 14, and provide updates on flight status as soon as possible and then every 30 minutes until a new departure time is set.
- Airlines will have to let passengers get off planes if a tarmac delay hits three hours, unless within the next 45 minutes there is an imminent probability that the flight can depart. After the extra time, if the plane is still on the ground, everyone has to get off unless there’s a safety or security reason against it.
- During tarmac delays, passengers must have access to working lavatories, food and drinks, and the plane must be properly ventilated, heated or cooled.
- Airlines will have to pay up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.
- Musical instruments will be allowed on flights, either as checked or carry-on baggage, but airlines will have to create policies detailing size restrictions, cabin-storage options, and transportation fees.
Starting Dec. 15:
- A new compensation structure takes effect for any passenger whose flight is delayed from departing or cancelled. Large airlines — those that transport more than two million passengers annually — will have to pay $400 for delays between three and six hours, $700 for delays stretching to nine hours, and $1,000 for delays beyond that. The compensation levels for smaller airlines are $125, $250 and $500.
- To get the money, passengers will have to file a claim with the airline, which then has 30 days to pay up or explain why it doesn’t think it has to pay.
- Passengers will get to decide whether to take cash, vouchers or rebates. If a passenger chooses non-cash compensation, the value will have to be higher than the cash offer, and can never expire.
- Once a delay hits two hours, airlines will have to offer “reasonable quantities” of food and drink and amenities such as free Wi-Fi.
- Once a delay hits three hours, passengers will have to be booked on the next available flight, or potentially on a competing airline. If rebooking doesn’t meet a passenger’s travel needs — if they no longer need to fly, for instance, because they’ve missed what they were flying for — they can get a refund and an extra $400 from large airlines, and $125 from small carriers.
- Children under age five will have to be seated next to a parent or guardian at no extra cost. Children five to 11 years old can be separated by no more than one seat in the same row, while 12- and 13-year-olds can’t be separated from guardians by more than one row.