Travelers could soon have more protection from abuse by airlines with proposed new rules to help change how passengers are treated. The Obama administration has announced welcome new regulations designed to make airlines more customer-friendly. The changes should please frustrated passengers who have been pleading for them for years. Among other things, passengers could get up to $1,300 if bumped from an oversold flight. Currently, airlines must pay up to $800 for involuntary bumping of passengers. Passengers would also have 24 hours to cancel reservations without penalty. Under the proposal, price increases after a ticket is purchased would be prohibited.
 
The changes are part of the so-called passenger “bill of rights.” The government was forced to intervene after the industry balked at voluntary changes. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the changes stem from frequent complaints about airline travel. There have been horror stories about stranded passengers and lengthy delays. Previously adopted rules now require airlines to let passengers stuck on the tarmac leave the plane after three hours. The airlines must also provide basic necessities — food and water and working bathrooms.
 
Foreign airlines would also have to comply with the three-hour tarmac limit. It currently applies only to domestic flights. Together the new rules offer needed protection for passengers and provide a reasonable model for how airlines should treat them. Some simply make good business sense. For example, the rules would require airlines to fully disclose baggage fees and reimbursements for delayed bags. Price increases after a ticket is purchased would be prohibited under the proposal. Airlines would also have to give passengers timely notice when their flight has been changed.
 
Given cutbacks in airline schedules and fewer no-shows, passengers could face more inconveniences without the changes. They are more likely to get bumped from an overbooked flight and have a harder time booking another flight. The airlines will likely have plenty to say about the changes during the 60-day comment period. The government should implement the changes as planned this fall, just in time for the busy holiday season.