Don't Overbook Me: Airlines Get New Rules

http://www.flickr.com/photos/docs_best/3894163436/ St. Maartens landing

Bag fees. Change fees. The pretzels cost money. Mergers keep threatening your right to a cookie. They might throw your guitar around, maybe even break it. TSA likes to scan you, pat you, take your 5 oz bottle of $50 lotion, and stare at you wondering where you hid the tiny nail file you got for a Christmas present, the kind that only counts as a weapon in Steven Seagal movies. Flying sucks, y'all, and it's only getting less fun.

So I did a little dance this morning when I saw that the Department of Transportation is set to announce a new list of airline mandates meant to help us, the little guy, out. Here's a few...

  • Did you see that $212 airfare to Barcelona? Did you get your family, girlfriends, or significant other onboard in approximately twenty seconds so you could grab that ticket before it sold out? No? Yeah, that's because that's impossible. You'll be able to lock in fares for 24 hours without paying, as long as you're booking at least a week in advance. (Related: you can also cancel your reservation within 24 hours without penalty.)

  • Did a certain airline not only lose your bags, but divert them to a completely different airline? Ahem. That was me. Without clothes on a 10-day business trip. If an airline loses your bags, it'll have to pay you. (To be determined: how much will they pay you?)

  • Were you on an "oversold" flight lately? Try my last three flights. Three in a row overbooked flights. Airlines will have to pay you more $$ if you get "involuntarily" bumped off an oversold flight. (Want to know how this works? Check out Sascha Segan's excellent rundown of the policies by airline for "voluntary" and "involuntary" bumps.)

Also, apropos of nothing: You can now follow your Delta checked bag on their nifty online bag tracker, a la Fed Ex and Dominos' Pizza.

( Photo: The island of Saint Martin (or, in Dutch, Sint Marteen) has a major airport close to the beach. You can see jets landing like this over Maho Beach all day. Via.)

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