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Focus on Regulation

U.S. Department of Transportation Denies Request for Enforcement Moratorium Extension on New Baggage Rules

The United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) has denied the request by several airline trade associations to extend its moratorium on enforcing certain aspects of the new baggage rules, 14 CFR Sections 399.85(c) and 399.87.  DOTDenial of Extension.  

Airlines for America, the International Air Transport Association, the Regional Airline Association, and the Air Carrier Association of America petitioned the DOT to extend its compliance relief for the new rules involving (i) the disclosure of baggage fees/allowances on email confirmations, e-ticket confirmations, and summary pages for on-line purchases, and (ii) the application of the fees/allowances of the airline on the first segment of a multi-carrier, multi-segment itinerary to the entire itinerary.  AssociationBagPetition.  These associations represent the vast majority of air carriers serving the United States.  The Petition explained the progress that the carriers had made in complying with the new baggage rules, but also detailed the complexity of applying the new rules in the context of multi-carrier, multi-segment itineraries, particularly when the carriers on the itinerary at issue did not have any pre-existing relationships.  The Petition also outlined the technological steps being taken to comply with the new rules when the carriers were faced with such complicated scenarios.  However, the associations argued that the airline industry needs additional time to develop, test, and finalize these solutions. 

Frontier Airlines filed an answer in support of the Petition, highlighting the difficult circumstances it was facing given that it was an unaffiliated carrier.  Frontier is not a member of an alliance nor does it have many baggage agreements with other carriers.  F9AnswerBaggage

The DOT nonetheless rejected the Petition, claiming that the carriers had had ample time and two prior extensions in which to comply with the new baggage rules.  In addition, the DOT emphasized that — in its view — consumers would continue to be confused by the numerous baggage fees and allowances that the carriers were imposing.   To this point, the Department noted that it had received 25 complaints from passengers who allegedly had been charged different baggage fees throughout their journey or were overcharged in violation of the rules.  The DOT did state that it would nonetheless “work collaboratively” with the airlines to assist in complying with the new baggage rules.  It remains to be seen where the DOT will draw the line between collaboration/assistance and enforcement.