U.S. airlines seek delay in new bag, fare rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. airlines want the government to push back deadlines requiring more transparency on bag fees and fare information as well as a mandate to boost compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped off flights.

Trade groups for major, low-cost and regional carriers have asked the Transportation Department to delay compliance until as late as next spring in certain cases so airlines can train employees and update information technology systems.

“The carriers are preparing to make the required changes to their systems and programs, but they have quickly realized that the effective dates in the final rule are not practical,” the airlines said last week in a letter to the agency.

A rule finalized in April was driven by consumer and political frustration with airline service, including flight delays and complaints about the true cost of travel.

A centerpiece of the mandate requires carriers to provide notice of bag fees in all e-ticket confirmations by Aug. 23.

This, airlines say, is burdensome and unnecessary. They would prefer to post hyperlinks on e-tickets to their websites that would advise customers about fees.

The companies have asked for a six-month delay in compliance at the very least.

Transparency on bag fees and fares is a hot-button issue with air travel becoming more expensive and airlines trying to squeeze as much revenue out of the system as possible to counter sharply higher fuel expenses.

Also by the August deadline, airlines are supposed to abide by a requirement that would compensate passengers up to $1,300 if they are bumped from a flight. The current maximum is $800. They would also like an extra six months to meet this deadline.

Additionally, airlines say they are preparing to reprogram and reconfigure online search engines to incorporate new requirements to include fees and taxes in all advertised fares.

This work must be completed by Oct. 24, but the airlines want to push that compliance deadline into April. (Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Maureen Bavdek)