U.S. to propose new rules requiring refunds for delayed airline bags -source

By David Shepardson and Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will soon propose new rules to require passenger airlines to refund fees for bags that are significantly delayed and refunds for services like onboard Wi-Fi that does not work, a source told Reuters.

Under existing Transportation Department rules, passengers are entitled to a fee refund if bags are lost, but not when delayed. Under the proposed Transportation Department rule to be released in the coming days, a “significantly delayed checked bag” is one not delivered to the passenger within 12 hours for domestic itineraries and within 25 hours for international itineraries.

Airlines for America, a group representing major airlines, did not immediately comment on Friday.

The administration proposal would also require airlines to promptly refund fees – such as for advance seat selection, Wi-Fi and other flight services – if the passenger does not receive the service or it does not work.

Under a forthcoming executive order on competition, President Joe Biden is directing the Transportation Department “to engage in a series of rulemakings to protect airline passengers and to promote fair competition in the airline industry,” the source told Reuters.

U.S. airlines collected approximately $5.8 billion in baggage fees and $2.8 billion in change and cancellation fees in 2019, up from just $464 million in baggage fees and $915 million in change and cancellation fees in 2007.

The Transportation Department also intends to issue a separate proposed rule in the coming months to require upfront disclosure of baggage fees, change fees and cancellation fees at the time of purchase of a plane ticket.

The Biden administration is holding a call on Friday to discuss the issue with major airlines, two other sources said.

Biden’s executive order will also direct the department to consider the fee disclosure rule, the source said, saying it would help consumers avoid being surprised by ticket fees and allow more accurate comparison shopping for flights.

Reuters first reported the planned executive order earlier this week.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Truro, Mass.; writing by Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Airline CEOs plead with White House to avert looming U.S. job cuts

By Jeff Mason and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of job cuts in two weeks, and urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and endorsed by President Donald Trump.

Meadows told reporters said that if House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was willing to move a bill that would support airline workers and prevent layoffs, Trump would support it, noting the looming layoffs of thousands of workers set for Oct 1.

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said airlines would also be working with Pelosi.

​Meadows said the administration had examined executive action options, all of them less than ideal.

Airlines did not offer a new proposal but again made the case that helping avert airline job cuts was one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.

After the meeting with Meadows, Parker said it was “not fair” that thousands of airline workers were about to be laid off. “We’re just here to plead with everyone involved to get to a quarterly package before October 1.”

Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said the initial payroll support plan “didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

American has said it plans to end service to 15 small communities without additional government assistance.

At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world is set to expire.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes, seriously depressing airline revenues.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)