Your consumer rights are disappearing. Here’s how to protect yourself now.

It’s not your imagination. Your consumer rights are vanishing.

Not a day seems to go by that you don’t see news of another consumer regulation being dismantled, a law coming undone, an anti-consumer executive order being signed. Read more “Your consumer rights are disappearing. Here’s how to protect yourself now.”

As airlines try to monetize seat assignments, are disabled passengers being left behind?

Flying with a disability is never easy, but in the past, airlines have lightened the burden a little by offering passengers such as Scott Nold advance seat assignments. Read more “As airlines try to monetize seat assignments, are disabled passengers being left behind?”

EU’s new rental car rules could be signpost for US

If you rent a car in Europe this summer, you might notice a few changes. Pay attention to them. They could be coming to America soon. Read more “EU’s new rental car rules could be signpost for US”

Transportation department taps brakes on proposed regulation requiring disclosure of airline fees

The U.S. Transportation Department surprised the travel world last month by suspending the creation of an important new consumer-protection regulation. Read more “Transportation department taps brakes on proposed regulation requiring disclosure of airline fees”

Should airlines be re-regulated?

The days of a freewheeling, lightly regulated airline industry, in which a carrier can charge whatever fees and fares it pleases, may be nearing an end.

A confluence of events is pressuring government regulators to take action that, depending on your point of view, will make air travel less expensive or interfere with a free market, driving ticket prices higher.
Read more “Should airlines be re-regulated?”

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.
Read more “Will a new law force cruise lines to better report onboard crime?”

What’s wrong with air travel?

What’s your biggest airline problem?

That’s a question I ask almost every day, and it’s coincidentally one that a new Transportation Department panel is trying to answer.
Read more “What’s wrong with air travel?”

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.
Read more “Hartford tarmac stranding doesn’t justify new laws”

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.
Read more “The DOT hears our SOS”