Hawaii Flight Delays

Hawaii Travelers Impact: Controversial New DOT Airline Compensation Rules Rankle Many

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) this week implemented new regulations aimed at improving transparency and fairness in airline operations. We had a look to determine more specifically how this may impact those of us on Hawaii flights. In doing this, we found that a lot of people aren’t very happy about what the DOT has planned.

The new regulations are particularly focused on refunds for canceled or long-delayed flights and on revealing hidden fees during the airline ticket booking process. In addition, when passengers don’t receive things they paid for, including upgrades and WiFi that will trigger refunds. See those details below. The changes, however, have met with significant opposition from the airline industry, highlighting a contentious battle over consumer rights in air travel.

Airlines for America (A4A) hates these rules. Is that actually a good sign for Hawaii travelers?

The airline industry’s major trade group has vehemently opposed the new rules. That, even as weak as these are, which are set to take effect in June.

A4A argues that the regulations will complicate choices for consumers, reduce competition, and ultimately drive up prices. They criticized the DOT for a lack of collaboration in crafting these regulations, labeling them as “unnecessary regulatory rules.”

The new DOT rules define a “significant delay” as any domestic flight, including Hawaii ones, delayed by more than three hours (or international flights delayed by more than six hours). Such delays will now automatically trigger a refund requirement, a stark change from the previous policy where airlines were only required to provide refunds upon request for canceled or significantly delayed flights. This move aims to protect consumers but has raised concerns among airlines about both possible operational burdens on them and the financial impact.

American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) isn’t happy either.

They also voiced strong opposition to these DOT airline regulations and fee disclosures. ASTA criticized the regulations, saying they will have negative consequences on small travel agencies. That is because agencies act as merchants of record for a ticket, but they don’t retain the passenger’s money. It will be a problem, especially in group travel, when travel agencies are required to issue refunds, as may be the case in spite of their not having the airline funds. ASTA said that while the DOT’s intention is good, it will put an onerous burden on small travel agencies.

Airlines must inform passengers about their new rights for refunds.

The rules mandate that airlines proactively inform passengers about the right to refunds in cases of significant delays or cancellations. That addresses a common issue wherein airlines prefer to offer less valuable travel credits instead of pro-consumer refunds. This change is to help ensure passengers are not inadvertently short-changed by airlines when disruptions occur.

For Hawaii travelers, these rules could provide a significant benefit.

Given the long-haul nature of flights to and from Hawaii, the likelihood of encountering delays or cancellations is higher. The clarity and protections offered by the new rules may reduce anxiety and financial risk associated with traveling to and from the islands.

Moreover, the DOT’s stipulation that all fees must be disclosed at the time of booking could help Hawaii travelers better budget for their trips. The DOT estimates that the new rules will save air travelers more than $500 million annually, which financial benefit could encourage consumer travel confidence.

While the potential consumer benefit and the positive direction from the DOT is obvious, the airline industry’s concerns highlight the complex balance between what serves them and consumer protection. The pushback emanating from A4A foretells further debates and possibly adjustments ahead to address the concerns of all stakeholders.

For Hawaii travelers, these regulations and their implications will be fascinating to follow.

As these rules start to take effect, we will be monitoring for their impact on Hawaii travel patterns, airline operations, and airline consumer satisfaction.

This development in U.S. airline passenger rights represents a directional shift towards more consumer protection. Please let us know your thoughts on the proposed regulations.

Biden-Harris-Administration-Announces-Final-Rule-Requiring-Automatic-Refunds-of-Airline-Tickets-and-Ancillary-Service-Fees-_-US-Department-of-Transportation

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6 thoughts on “Hawaii Travelers Impact: Controversial New DOT Airline Compensation Rules Rankle Many”

  1. The consumer will bear the brunt of this legislation financially. Airlines will pass the cost on. They will put up a stink initially but it is for show.

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  2. Tweak it to address ASTA concerns and it seems like a good regulation that better serves Americans, without undue burden on airlines. And yes, of course the industry lobby will oppose it, but their arguments do not hold up.

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  3. Sounds fair to me, but I am fully aware that laws often have unintended consequences.

    Companies don’t take these types of restrictions and money-losing propositions lying down.

    If companies feel their profits are or will be reduced, they will raise prices on consumers to make up for it.

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  4. This is a perfect example of how some practices that hurt consumers led to regulatory action. It may be that the new rules create burdens and go too far, but the industry would not be here if they dealt with customers fairly under the old rules.

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  5. Thanks BoH for all you do. You are one of the only blogs I follow.

    FYI. Here are some links. I had a hard time reading the text in the above insert.

    This is good news for travelers. Although in my opinion all the information was out there for people regarding many of these issues as long as they did due diligence.

    federalregister.gov/documents/2024/04/26/2024-07177/refunds-and-other-consumer-protections

    federalregister.gov/documents/2024/04/26/2024-07177/refunds-and-other-consumer-protections

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  6. This is what happens when deregulation allowed the airlines to start treating passengers poorly (I’m tempering my wording here). Not to mention their greed. The move to passenger rights is long overdue and welcome.

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