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Feds Reveal Regs To Give Air Travelers A Break

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A passenger books a flight at Miami International Airport.  (CBS4)

A passenger books a flight at Miami International Airport. (CBS4)

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WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS4) – The next time you book a flight you’ll have a better idea of what it is really going to cost thanks to some new passenger protection rules announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Most travelers know they’ll have to pay for checked luggage, but sometimes they don’t find out how much they’re going to be charged until they get to the airport counter or until they reach the final check out page online. Depending on the airline, flight, weight and size fees can range from $25 per bag to $200. Last year, airlines racked up more than $3 billion in baggage charges alone.

Geraldo Aguiar and Andrea Passos are visiting from Brazil. When they booked flights in the US, they did not realize they’d have to pay for their bags.

“We have a problem,” said Passos as she stood over her opened luggage on the floor of the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. The couple was trying to condense clothes into fewer bags after learning they had to pay for luggage.

“We paid, for the ticket, $300,” said Aguiar. “But right now, we’re paying over $180 (for luggage) more than 50 percent of the price of the ticket.”

Travelers complained about all the hidden fees being charged by airlines and the transportation department listened.

“Safety is always number one. It always will be. But we want to make sure that passengers have some sort of rights when they get on these planes,” said Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Under the new changes to passenger protections, airlines must now inform customers to avoid surprises about all fees associated with the ticket and any additional costs including fees for baggage and meals.

Frequent flier Patrice Philips knows all about the hidden fees, “Baggage fees, seat fees, on board purchase fees, drink fees,” she continued, “So there are always all kinds of surprises.”

Here’s an example of how fees can cause a ticket price to soar: You purchase a $200 ticket from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago, add the $35.80 for taxes and fees and that brings you up to $235.80, but that could be just the beginning. Some airlines charge a “passenger usage fee” at $16. Then add $25 each way to be able to choose a premium seat. Add another $38, each way, for your first bag and, depending on which airline you fly, you could pay $45 each way for a carry on as well. And if you happen to get thirsty during the flight, some airlines will charge about $3 for a soda. That is an example of how quickly a $200 dollar ticket can soar up to about $470!

If an airline loses a travelers luggage, not only will they have to pay for it but they will also have to refund the baggage handling fee. Some 2 million bags were lost, damaged or delayed in 2010, a rate of 3.57 per 1,000 passengers, the Department of Transportation said.

Passengers who are bumped from flights because of overbooking will now be compensated up to $650 for a short wait and up to $13-hundred for a long wait.

The existing fines given to airlines for lengthy tarmac delays on domestic flights has now been expanded to international flights as well.

The transportation department said it will take up to four months for the new regulations to take effect.

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