Congress Considering New Passenger Bill of Rights

The head of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, is giving airline executives marching orders.  “We will hold you accountable and we will respect real results,” he told the CEO of United Airlines.

Customers would like airlines held accountable for things like overbooking, bag fees, tiny seats that will get smaller, and rules you don't even know about. “If a passenger is barefoot they can be denied boarding,” says Christine Sarkas, senior editor of Smarter Travel.  She recommends passengers read the Contract of Carriage that is part of every ticket sold, which can sometimes be more than 50 pages long.  “My favorite is, when the passenger has a malodorous condition” they can be denied boarding.

You might as well read it.  You've already agreed to it when you got your ticket.

Airlines are telling congress they don't need a new passenger bill of rights to clean up the industry, but Sarkas says the list of complaints by most customers is well known.  “We have long lines, a lack of pricing transparency, a devaluation of frequent flier miles, a lack of passenger rights guaranteed, and that’s on top of fees, and what feels like a lack of respect for passenger welfare.” 

An announcement by American Airlines that seats in the future will be even smaller did not impress Congress and has consumer groups crying foul and asking for minimum standards for seats, lavatories and aisles.

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