White House unveils airline passenger protection, industry transparency efforts

The Department of Transportation on Wednesday unveiled a new plan to increase the rights and protections of airline passengers.

The department said the rules will forbid "undisclosed bias by airlines and online ticket agents," compel companies to provide "more complete" airline performance reports, better protect travelers with disabilities and give passengers a more detailed picture of "mishandled" checked bags.

Wednesday's actions aim to ensure that customers "know exactly what they're buying" and that they "get what they pay for — without hidden fees or last-minute complications," the White House said in a statement.

The department also said it is planning a rule that would require airlines to refund baggage fees to customers when their luggage has been "substantially delayed." It did not define the amount of time. It also said it is considering requiring airlines to provide customers with "all-in pricing information."

The new regulations follow an executive order President Barack Obama issued in April to boost competition and increase transparency for consumers. The order said, "maintaining, encouraging, and supporting a fair, efficient, and competitive marketplace is a cornerstone of the American economy."

Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization, warned that regulation efforts could drive up the cost of air travel.

"Airlines have different business models and must be allowed to continue offering optional services in a manner that makes sense for both their customers and their business," A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement. "Efforts designed to re-regulate how airlines distribute their products and services are bad for airline customers, employees, the communities we serve and our overall U.S. economy."U

Until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act, federal rules included setting air fares and routes and controlling the entry of new airlines.