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Department of Transportation Passenger Protection Rules

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The second phase of the Department of Transportation’s Passenger Protection Regulations Rule #2 goes into effect for all airlines on January 24 for most provisions and on January 26 for the Full Fare Advertising provision.  A Team of Employees from Southwest’s Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards, Technology, Marketing, Ground Operations, and Legal departments have worked diligently to ensure compliance for both Southwest and AirTran.  Below are highlights of the new regulations, and we’ve also created a list of frequently asked questions about the new regulations, Southwest FAQ or AirTran FAQ

 

Effective January 24:

Flight Status Notification—If a flight’s status changes by 30 or more minutes or the flight is cancelled, Airlines must inform Customers within 30 minutes of that change.

  • Applies to our Automated Outbound Messaging (AOM), Flight Status Notifications sign up service, and Flight Status Messaging on southwest.com. 
  • Applies to airport displays (FIDS), Gate announcements, and announcements onboard the aircraft during tarmac delays for both Southwest and AirTran. 
  • For enhanced Customer Service in the airport, our Customer Service Agents (CSAs) will receive the flight status information via their usual channels 10 minutes prior to Customer notifications for both airlines. 

Cancel Reservations within 24 hours without Penalty—An airline must either allow a Customer to cancel a ticketed reservation within 24 hours of booking without penalty or allow the Customer to hold a reservation for 24 hours without being ticketed with no increase in fare.

 

  • This rule does not change what we are currently doing. As has been Southwest’s since 2000, if a Customer cancels a reservation within 24 hours of original booking/ticketing, a refund is automatically processed to the original form of payment.  AirTran’s former policy stated the Customer had to cancel within four hours, and we’ll make the change to 24 hours to comply with the new regulation for AirTran. 

 

Effective January 26:

 

Full Fare Advertising—Air fares that are advertised, verbally quoted, or displayed online must now also include all government-imposed taxes and fees that an airline collects for various government agencies.  These government taxes and fees include the segment fee of $3.80 per take off and landing, Passenger Facility Charge of up to $18 roundtrip, and September 11th Security Fee of up to $10 roundtrip for travel within or from the U.S.  For International travel, a variety of additional fees, in some cases close to $100, must also be included in the advertised air fare.  This does not include ancillary fees charged by some airlines (i.e. checking a bag).

 

  • In the past, fares displayed in our advertising and on southwest.com and airtran.com included the Base Fare plus a 7.5% federal excise tax.  The additional government-imposed taxes and fees were shown separately from the fare in advertising and added to the total fare at the time the reservation was priced.
  • With the new regulation, fares will include the Base Fare plus the 7.5% excise tax, plus all additional government-imposed taxes and fees that we collect and distribute to various government agencies.
  • The fare amount with all government-imposed taxes and fees included creates various dollar amounts that are difficult to use in advertising efforts; therefore we’ve decided to round up our fares to the nearest dollar for display purposes only.  The rounded up fare amount will be more than what a Customer will actually pay when booking the ticket – the cost variant between the displayed fare versus the booked fare could be up to 99 cents.
  • At first glance, airline fares will “look” higher after the implementation of these provisions, but that is only because of the added taxes and fees that will now be included on the front end as opposed to the back end.  We did not increase our air fares on Southwest or AirTran. 

Full Fare Advertising and Rapid Rewards—The new Full Fare Advertising will not change how points are calculated or redeemed. 

 

  • In the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, points are calculated from the Base Fare plus the 7.5% excise tax, which, prior to this new regulation, was also the fare that was advertised/displayed. 
  • Points will still be calculated the same way, Base Fare plus excise tax.
  • Flights will still be redeemed the same way, and the Customer will still have to pay the applicable September 11th Security Fee of up to $10.
  • Points were never earned on the government-imposed taxes or fees paid in conjunction with our air fare.
70 Comments
Sally_West
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I agree that the gov. get's to involved with business and everything else, it won't surprise me if they don't start some air tax and start changing us to breath. Where do it all end. Bail out the rich and screw the poor, hope they don't start asking me to send my paycheck to them and live on nothing. Still Southwest is the best airline in the sky and I don't hold them accountable for any of these extra charges. Just wish I could fly enough to earn a free flight.
bill_frigo
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This is not government interference with business. This is government protecting the citizen as government should do. In the past, airlines could willy-nilly cancel and/or make changes on flights with no penalty. Whereas when we customers made changes the airlines slapped us with penalties. We had no recourse. Airlines did not respond to us with a sense of good business ethics and failed to do what was right. Had they done so, government would not have had to intervene. Government is finally doing what it should be doing, protecting the citizen from an outrageous lack of ethics and fairness on the part of airlines. Such a lack of ethics leads to greed and dog eat dog in the airline industry. And in the whole field of our economic system. Southwest may have been fairer than other airlines in this regard. So it will not have to worry about making many changes. But other airlines will. Whoopie!!!!! Bill F
tedd
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Great new rules! Sorry, but anyone complaining about them (besides airlines bosses) is just a fool! Why wouldn't anyone want to see upfront the real ticket price and be able to cancel within 24 hours? Are you people that brainwashed that just because it's a "gummint regilation" you have to cry about it? Get a clue!
jeff4funtravel
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Many here have posted that they opposed the Government requiring the airlines to include ALL costs in the posted and advertised prices of flights. Many have confused this as the Government forbidding the airline from itemizing. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. The airlines are still free to itemize all charges! They can at anytime! However, when the post a SINGLE price, THAT price must be inclusive of the fees. And, while I feel I am an educated flyer, I would have to agree a novice would be better and more informed in the single price being inclusive rather than what it has been in past. Let's also realize that this law requires information within 30 minutes! Come on, this means the industry was caught withholding honest information on delayed and canceled flights well beyond 30 minutes! Sad, the industry required a law to change that! Let's be careful not to jump to conclusion that new government rules are bad. Frankly, many of these types of laws are in response to the underlying lobbyists and consumer activist groups that include consumer and industry representation. I am sure many airlines would have loved to be posting all-inclusive, but because enough used essentially a bait-and-switch tactic, they could not afford to be honest and lose business for perceived better deals.
Laurie_Markle
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waiting to have my own printer talk with you soon
Albert_S
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This allows government and other public entities to hide the amounts of taxes or "fees" they add to the cost of air travel. The rules should instead require airlines to list the air fare and all of the other charges separately, as many airlines now do, so the public knows who get what part of their total trip cost. In other words, leave it as is for those carriers, such as Southwest, who do this now. Itemization of all airline charges such as baggage fees, etc should be required.
j_m
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Finally the government does something right. You can actually see what you'll pay from the beginning, instead of only after investing several minutes in "pretending" to book so you can see what the taxes and fees would "really" be
MikeG
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You know more goverment intresion in my life yes thats what i need!
Alan_Setherley
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Anytime the government is involved in ordering anything, except Law Enforcement , things get worse. We need less Government involvement. That is why we are close to being bankrupt!!
Judith_Czerwonk
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It's about time the airlines tell us the total cost of the flight so we can decide what works best for us. I've always wondered why it hasn't happened sooner. It's nice to know what the total cost before purchasing. That way we aren't surprised with a cost that wasn't expected.
jesse_breedlove
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What Mensa candidate would not want to see what price they are actually paying!
K_Kline
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When you shop in your home town do you accuse your local supermarket of being deceptive by not putting the price on the shelf with the taxes included, do you get mad when you walk into a car dealer after seeing an ad in the paper for a new truck for 19k but when you try and buy that truck for 19k they ask you for tax, tile and license fees. SWA has a loyal following because they have tried to keep cost down and service up, but consumers must take some responsibility, I know people who will research a $500 TV for two weeks, read everything about it, warranty, even use a site like Amazon that shows the lowest price with shipping included before they buy the $500 TV but then will buy 2k of airline tickets for their family and get mad because they get hit with a $25 bag fee at the airport because they were too tired to scroll to the bottom of the web page. If the taxes and fees are set by the federal government and collected by the airline according to the law and do not have profit added to them then showing them to you so you don't have to learn anything about how or why your government taxes you shouldn't be the airlines job. Maybe you should be asking your government if they using the money wisely, in 2010 the FAA collected 10.6B in these fees (not counting the 9/11 security fees, remember that Homeland Security’s job) and needed 15.6B to do its job so the fees cover 2/3 of the cost and 1/3 comes from the general fund sounds good, the industries consumers (that’s you the flying public) pays for 2/3 of its infrastructure cost and grandma who flies once every 5 years to see the grandkids pays out of the general fund to ensure a safe and modern system is available to her when she does fly. Now the share the wealth gang wants to take 15B out the "security fees" it collects from passengers and divert it to the "General Fund" to help reduce the debt instead of improving airport security, so instead of taking your "security fees" and making security a better, more efficient system to benefit you, the travelling public, they are going to put it into the general fund and use it as they see fit. Whys that good for the spread the wealth gang? it is because no matter how you try and spin it there are generally 3 types of travelers and they are the Business Traveler, the frequent leisure traveler and the infrequent traveler (remember grandma from above). The business traveler passes these costs onto his employer who passes the cost onto the consumer (you) thru higher costs of goods or services. The second traveler, the frequent leisure traveler is not in the spread the wealth’s gang, they are affluent (that’s how they can afford to take time off from work and travel the world with their whole family) and generally ok with being taxed for services if the taxes or fees produce results (better airports, security etc..) but in there shame for being affluent (or part of the elite 2%, or in the top 1%, that’s a household who makes more than 400K a year) they just keep their mouths closed and pay the extra few bucks a ticket. The final group, the infrequent traveler is in the spread the wealth gang demographics, the poor college student trying to get home, the unemployed construction worker flying to a new town chasing work, grandma flying to see the grandkids. So the college student who is using federal funds for higher education, the grandma collecting social security and Medicare and the unemployed working who is using some of his unemployment check to buy his ticket all see this as a temporary thing, a once in awhile expense that’s worth it because it won’t last forever, the college student will graduate and turn into either a business traveler or a maybe even a frequent leisure traveler, the construction worker will go home once the economy picks back up and grandma will only fly for a few more years and then make the grandkids come to her because travelling is too hard for her. So now the government has a fee that they mandate has to be displayed in the final advertised ticket pricing so you the consumer will be unable to determine if the total price you are paying just went up because of a government fee change or your airline is raising prices, I’ll bet that airlines will start to hike prices in “anticipation” of the government raising fees in the month or so before the fees actually take effect and once the fees hit, they may drop them back so it appears that there was no change when in reality the airlines collected the higher ticket prices for a month before they had to give that money to the government.
darren_muir
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I think the new government regulations will be very helpful in letting the consumer know exactly what his/her ticket will cost when initially buying it. I understand the concern that the customer may not realize how much of this price is due to taxes. But is there anything written into the law preventing your company from breaking down the costs of the flight (how much of the purchase price is going to the customer and how much is going to taxes) later on in the transaction after the total price is displayed on the initial purchase screen? As for the concern that the government rules will mask the amount of taxes it is charging passengers---we really do get a lot of protection and services for the taxes that are imposed. Don't the taxes provide funding for the FAA and TSA which provide passengers with accident prevention and security? Taxes also provide infrastructure improvements needed to keep airports up to date. Aren't all the fees and taxes used to benefit the air travel industry? Or are they being spent on something else? If the concern is that the government is not spending the tax money it raises with the fees wisely---then a case should be made against the perceived waste not against the new policy. After all shouldn't the airlines have been just as concerned about their passengers having to pay taxes for wasteful airport or air traffic projects before the new rules went into effect? If wasteful tax spending wasn't an issue to the airlines before the new rules went into effect---then why is it important now that the taxes are included in the ticket price? The passenger is ultimately paying the same final price regardless of how the price is required to be displayed.
duncan_gilchris
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- on the phone for 1.5 hours tonight trying to get someone at southwest to understand my problem of not being able to see my past used and refunded points anymore online. its like the database with activity has been erased for my account. 3 of the customer service reps didn't understand my request, 2 said they could do nothing about it. 2 of the 3 managers could not explain why. and could not take the simple responsibility to e-mail me back when the situation had been resolved because "they have no way to e-mail me" are you serious????? 2012 and they cannot send a customer a simple e-mail. wow! looks like too many changes at this company too fast. they cant even keep the systems that used to work, working anymore, heaven help us all with all this integration of airtran and government compliance when its a technical challenge to send an e-mail.
dales
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really great information thank you so much.
paula_nokes
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Ok, Iam on the $69.00 bucks a flight but when I go to find a flight everything is a lot more & Iam not looking for a flight in the black-out spots & Iam looking on tues. or wed. I need help show me the places to go.......
Darrin_R
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There are good tings and bad things about showing the final price. Because Government fees can account for a SIGNIFICANT portion of a fare, airlines can no longer show the customer the "true" airline cost before the taxes are added. A downside to this is that the costs with the government taxes and fees, may make it prohibitive for a person to book. For example, I was booking PHL-CPT and receive an airfare quote of $850 roundtrip. However, the government fees and taxes amounted to $500 making the ticket $1,350. Is that the airline's fault? When I go to the supermarket, I see the actual price and not the "final" price after government fees and taxes. Personally, I would have rather liked them to display BOTH the pre-government tax amount and the final amount.
barbara_wolf
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how to you find promo codes
Dorine_Sanders
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What is this with Southwest wanting an overload of information: SS#, own home, how long have you lived there ETC< ETC
geri_boisvenue
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I tried to book a flight to tucson mid to end October, but the calendar would not allow me into october. This should be within the timeframe of your 3 day deal.