By Mark Orwoll
July 22, 2011

The Department of Transportation announced yesterday that it will delay several new air passenger rights until January 24. The rules were approved in April and were to go into effect beginning August 23. The announcement came after criticism from numerous airline organizations who said their members would need more time to implement the changes. Several airlines complained specifically about a new "full-fare advertising" rule that would require airfares to include all mandatory taxes and fees. That particular rule would have gone into effect in October.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) criticized as impractical a new rule that would require agencies to inform passengers of all ancillary fees they might face.

“ASTA supports disclosure of ancillary fees to consumers on agency websites or e-ticket confirmations, as the rules designate, but we are against rules that will incentivize more agencies to stop selling airline tickets altogether, further restricting consumers’ option in how they purchase air travel,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair, in a statement on July 12. “We remain committed to working with the DOT to find a practical solution and fully support the DOT’s stance in forcing airlines to provide stronger consumer protection.”

A spokesman for the DOT said an extension has been granted for the rules pertaining to full-fare advertising; post-purchase price increases; flight status notifications, and the right to hold a reservation for 24 hours without payment. The extension is intended to give the air travel industry sufficient time to communicate the changes to their staffs and train them, to make necessary updates to computer programs, and to develop new procedures to implement the new rules.

In my Smart Traveler column this month I outlined the key components of the new rules, most of which will still take effect on August 23 as originally planned. These provisions include a four-hour tarmac delay limit for virtually all international flights (previously exempt from such limits), an increase in compensation paid to involuntarily bumped passengers (to a maximum of $1,300), and the addition of customer-service plans by foreign airlines that would meet the same standards currently required of domestic airlines.

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.