DOT doubles compensation available for bumped fliers

Thursday, April 17, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Passengers who get bumped off overbooked flights will soon be eligible to receive twice as much compensation from U.S. airlines.

Travelers forced onto another flight that takes them to their domestic destination more than two hours after their original arrival time will be paid the full price of their fare up to $800, under a new Transportation Department rule that goes into effect next month.

The agency also announced several initiatives Wednesday intended to decrease air travel delays, including a plan to reroute planes through Canadian air space to avoid summer storms.

If bumped passengers arrive less than two hours after their original arrival time, the new compensation limit for domestic flights is $400, according to the new rule. The arrival time limit is four hours for international flights.

The new bumped fliers rule also applies to more planes, covering most aircraft that carry more than 30 passengers instead of 60.

"It's hard to compensate for a missed family occasion or business opportunity, but this rule will ensure flyers are more fairly reimbursed for their inconvenience," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement.

The previous $200 and $400 limits had not been raised since 1978.

Regional planes are now included because the number of flights using aircraft with between 31 and 60 seats increased by 13.5 percent between 2002 and 2006, according to government data.

The Air Transport Association, which represents the nation's largest carriers, and the Regional Airline Association both submitted comments opposing parts of the new rule, according to the government notice.

Representatives from those two groups did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday morning.

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