Will a new law force cruise lines to better report onboard crime?

Brian Jackson/Shutterstock
Brian Jackson/Shutterstock
The remarkable thing about the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act is that on its face, it looks entirely unremarkable. The law would require cruise lines to publicly report all alleged crimes on a ship and to disclose their passenger contracts in plain English.

But dive into the bill, and it delivers a little shock to both passengers and the cruise industry. For travelers, it’s the surprise that, thanks to a legal loophole, cruise lines and the federal government currently don’t do what the new law would require, including publicly reporting every alleged and significant crime committed aboard cruise ships. It’s also a troubling reminder that at sea, you don’t have the same rights as on land.
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Is it time to regulate frequent flier programs?

Henryk/Shutterstock
Henryk/Shutterstock

Peter Bauer is mad.

His wife, Susan, a loyal United Mileage Plus member, can’t seem to redeem her hard-earned points for what she’d been promised: “free” flights — or “free” anything, for that matter.

“She has about 142,000 miles, all of which are from actual air travel — not goodwill or credit card charge or other miles,” says Bauer, a management consultant from Portland, Ore. “She has looked into turning those miles into a plane ticket or tickets many times but it has never worked out because she always comes up against a blackout period or other lack of availability.”
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Hartford tarmac stranding doesn’t justify new laws

The Halloween weekend stranding of more than 1,000 airline passengers at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., brought the tarmac delay activists out in full force again, pushing for new laws that they claim would prevent lengthy ground delays.

The circumstances were admittedly dreadful. On Oct. 29, air traffic controllers diverted 28 flights to Hartford after a freak snowstorm hammered the region. Many planes were grounded for hours in the blizzard, unable to reach the terminal. Supplies of food and water dwindled. Toilets became clogged. Tempers flared.
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The DOT hears our SOS

It turns out that all the negative things that happened to air travelers in 2010 – invasive body scans, multiplying fees, erupting volcanoes – were offset by at least one positive change: an increasingly passenger-friendly Transportation Department.

The federal government introduced new rules to help air travelers and enforced the regulations already on the books with a fervor unlike any administration in recent memory.

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leading the first consumer-centered DOT in the history of commercial aviation,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel interests. “And he’s doing so in a very thoughtful and sophisticated manner.”

In the spring, the agency imposed a controversial rule that effectively limited tarmac delays to three hours. A series of proposed consumer protection initiatives that would, among other things, strengthen airlines’ customer service requirements, force carriers to display airfares and optional fees to allow better side-by-side price comparisons, and boost fines for overbooking were proposed over the summer and are expected to become finalized in early 2011. If approved, they could change the way Americans fly more than any government action since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.
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The $7.8 billion question

How much does your airline ticket really cost?

Admit it, you have no idea. Once you add the cost of a checked bag, a confirmed seat reservation and a day-old turkey sandwich, you’ll pay more than you expected. A lot more, probably.

Not so long ago, ticket prices included all of the above. But thanks to an industry trend called unbundling, many airlines are now stripping everything away from the ticket but the cost of your seat.
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