Those new airline rules about cancellations and delays? Don’t count on them yet.

European airlines comply with rules to compensate passengers for delays and cancellations but U.S. carriers are resisting - UnSplash +

And junk fees? Keep your fingers crossed.

Wouldn't you just know it -- even though travelers in the EU, UK, and Canada are all protected and given compensation for controllable flight delays and cancellations -- U.S. airlines have decided to fight similar new rules mandating that they do the same.

In a lawsuit filed a lawsuit by Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and United Airlines -- along with industry lobby Airlines For America -- those companies allege the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) went further than it had the authority to in announcing the new rule, calling it an “arbitrary, capricious” change.

Among the chorus of dissenters are Frontier Airlines' CEO Barry Biffle and American Airlines' CEO Robert Isom. Biffle has gone on record saying that the airline industry lacks the technology needed to comply with these new regulations.

“I think the way they’ve written it, I think the reason why some of the industry’s having a challenge is because I think there’s not the technology in place today to do exactly what they’re looking for,” Biffle said during a call with analysts. “But hopefully we can all get there.”

The same goes for Isom, who has raised doubts about how the rules will account for uncontrollable factors like bad weather and air traffic control issues.

Another question mark is how the new DOT mandates will be enforced. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott expressed his concerns regarding the enforcement of these regulations, saying, "Rules are meaningless without enforcement."

Putting it another way, Elliott added, "Imagine if the highway patrol stopped writing speeding tickets for more than four months."

And what about those airline junk fees?

While we’re on the topic of airlines making life easier for the consumer, let’s talk about the issue of the industry addressing another DOT rule to cut out the dance airlines are doing with junk fees. The one where airlines are required to list all baggage, cancellation and change fees and explain fee policies before someone purchases a ticket. 

Has any airline actually done anything about it? The short answer is no -- at least not fully. But, to be fair, they’ve still got some time before the hammer falls.

Frontier’s Biffle said his airline was overhauling both its app and website to address the junk fees issue.

“We refunded over $300 million last year, all in these same categories,” Biffle said. “We believe largely we’re compliant with what they’re looking for.”

Southwest told ConsumerAffairs that since it “uniquely offers” each passenger two free checked bags, permits two free carry-on items, and has yet to be hit with a punitive change fee at any time in its history, it anticipates minimal to no impact from this rule. But it is on board with what the DOT is requesting.

“Overall, we support every airline’s right to price its products but believe fees should be clearly and consistently disclosed, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions," a Southwest spokesperson said.

Will other airlines see things the same way? We’ll find out in late October when it’s fish or cut bait time to act on the new DOT directive.

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