Six Reasons Why Flying Is Getting Better

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Exciting news for frequent flyers: This week, new Department of Transportation regulations go into effect that will make flying a little bit less of a head-scratcher for passengers.

The biggest, most contested change starts on Thursday and requires airlines to list full fare advertising, including all taxes and fees. This will eliminate the annoyance of finding what seems like a steal of a flight from Logan to JFK, only to find that it’s not much of a deal after adding in taxes and hidden fees — like how AirTran just asked me to pay six bucks both ways for the privilege of choosing a seat, even all the way back in steerage.

Other rules in effect since yesterday include:

24 hours to hold or cancel reservations without penalty. If the reservation is made at least one week in advance of departure.

Disclosure of baggage fees when booking, even on e-tickets. No more grey areas or nasty surprises at check-in.

No more fare increases after purchasing a ticket. This one seems like a no-brainer.

The same baggage allowances and fees apply for the whole trip. Even if your plane is diverted, you miss your connection, or have to re-book mid-trip.

Only opt-ins when booking online. No more sneaky ways to make you pay $14.99 for traveler’s insurance if you don’t want it.

Sounds good, right? Not everyone’s thrilled with the new regulations. At least three airlines — Allegiant, Spirit and Southwest — are contesting the agreement in court. And in surprisingly non-Southwest/laid-back/Ding! fashion, company spokesman Chris Mainz told MSNBC:

“There is no justification for treating air travel differently from just about everything else that consumers purchase, i.e., they pay for the price of goods and services and then pay tax. Forcing airlines to include taxes will also make air travel ‘look’ more expensive when in reality it’s not.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained the rationale for the new regulations in a statement yesterday: “Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly,” he said. “The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.”

Someone gets it. Thank goodness for us.