A Less Stressful Booking

New federal regulations will make it easier to plan air travel.

A Less Stressful Booking

Air travel can be a pain. You have to look at the socks of strangers (Garfield is an odd choice for a middle-aged man). Flights are delayed, legroom is sparse, and in many cases, you have to pay for a checked bag. But there is some good news on the horizon: New rules from the Department of Transportation that went into effect last week will take some of the agony out of planning your flights.

The biggest new rule is that you can now cancel or modify a reservation within 24 hours after the reservation is made, and receive a full refund with no penalty fees attached. Go ahead. Stand up and high-five your coworkers, because it’s certainly about time that became a industry-wide standard. The only stipulation is that you have to purchase your ticket at least one week prior.

Another major change to airline travel takes aim at the way fees are advertised. As it is now, airlines can market flight prices, but hide away taxes and fees in a separate section. The new rule — effective last Friday — says that any additional costs must be lumped into the ticket price. That means no more logging onto a site and seeing a cheap flight, only to have that number jump as the booking process progresses.

The other new rules are little more ambiguous. Airlines must notify fliers “promptly” when there is a delay, and they will “generally” be unable to raise ticket prices once they are purchased. There is a lot of grey area there, but hey, it’s a start.

The new regulations will certainly make fitting a ticket into your budget easier, because you’ll be able to plan for taxes and fees. “Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, in a press release. Hive fives for LaHood, too – if you should ever meet him.

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