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Airlines Must Refund Bag Fee for ‘Significantly Delayed’ Luggage, Obama Administration Says

Passengers of an American Airlines flight pick up their luggage. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Passengers of an American Airlines flight pick up their luggage. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

If your luggage is late getting back to you at the airport, you may be entitled to a refund.

Under a new set of consumer protection policies drafted by the Obama Administration, airlines must refund customers’ baggage fees if they’re late returning luggage after a flight.

The new rules haven’t gone into effect just yet, nor has the term “substantially” been defined.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration is also tasking airlines with providing more accurate reports on on-time arrival rates, the frequency of wheelchair request fumbles and the rates at which luggage is lost or mishandled. The new regulations are part of larger efforts by the Obama Administration to establish tougher consumer protection policies on the nation’s airlines, the publication reports.

“The travel community is grateful that the administration continues to shine a light on many of the more frustrating issues that ail the air travel experience in the U.S,” said Roger Dow, chief executive of the U.S. travel association.

Another rule proposed by the administration would require travel-booking websites that offer comparison-ticket shopping to remain neutral “or disclose their bias upfront so consumers can truly comparison shop when booking flights,” NPR aviation reporter David Schaper said. Such sites have a tendency to rank airlines based on undisclosed payments to the company and other business incentives.

Under the new regulations, major airlines and regional carriers like Envoy and Air Wisconsin will also be required to produce reports on their on-time performance. The Transportation Department announced plans to investigate airlines that prevent travel sites from disclosing their fares, too. According to NPR, such practices boost traffic to airline websites, where they can charge passengers higher prices on tickets and seat arrangements.

Despite the administration’s efforts to improve consumer protections, not everyone is feeling the new airline rules. An airline industry spokesperson called the regulations “unnecessary” because most airlines already offer baggage fee refunds — but that’s only if a passenger’s luggage is stolen, not delayed. The Los Angeles Times reports that trade groups for U.S. airlines are also concerned that imposing too many new rules could backfire, causing undesired results.

“We’ve said for a long time that we think the airline industry is probably the most regulated deregulated industry you can find, and this is another example of it,” said Jean Medina, an industry spokesperson from Airlines of America.

In a message posted to Facebook Wednesday, President Obama called the rules “commonsense steps” aimed at saving customers money, increasing competition between airlines and improving the overall airline experience.

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