DOT Seeks Comments on Airline Bumping Rule Proposed Changes

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently asked for public comment on possible changes to the rules governing airline oversales, or "bumping," including a possible increase in the maximum compensation due to passengers bumped from oversold flights.

First adopted in 1962, the bumping rules were intended to balance the rights of passengers with the needs of air carriers, minimizing the effect of passengers with reservations who do not take their flight. Under the current rule, if the airline can arrange alternate transportation scheduled to arrive at the passenger's destination within two hours of the planned arrival time of the oversold flight--or four hours on international flights--the compensation is the amount of the fare to the passenger's destination with a $200 maximum. If the airline cannot meet these deadlines, the amount of compensation doubles, with a $400 maximum. This compensation is in addition to the value of the passenger’s ticket, which the passenger can use for alternate transportation or have refunded if not used. Airlines are not required to pay compensation when the passenger is provided alternate transportation scheduled to arrive at the passenger's destination within one hour of the planned arrival time of the oversold flight.

DOT seek comments on five proposals: increasing the $200 compensation limit to $624 and the $400 limit to $1,248; increasing the compensation limits to $290 and $580, respectively; doubling the compensation limits to $400 and $800; eliminating all compensation limits and making compensation equal to the value of the ticket with the payment doubling for longer delays; or leaving the current limits in place.

The notice also seeks comments on other possible changes to the bumping rule, such as extending the rule to aircraft having 30 to 60 seats, which are not currently covered, and clarifying the criteria airlines may use in deciding the order in which passengers will be bumped.

DOT's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available at http://dms.dot.gov, docket OST-01-9325. Further information on bumping rules is available at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/flyrights.htm.

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