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Airline Passenger Protections Enhanced

WASHINGTON (CN) - After numerous commercial airline flight delays where passengers were kept on planes for hours, the Department of Transportation has issued rules to improve the air travel experience for consumers.

The rules: increase the number of carriers required to adopt tarmac delay contingency plans and the airports at which they must follow the plan's terms; increase the number of carriers required to report tarmac delay information to the agency; expand the group of carriers required to adopt, follow, and audit customer service plans and establish minimum standards for the subjects all carriers must cover in the plans.

The rules also add carriers to those required to include their contingency plans and customer service plans on their Web sites; increase the number of carriers that must respond to consumer complaints; enhance protections for passengers in oversales situations, including increasing the maximum denied boarding compensation airlines must pay to passengers bumped from flights; strengthening, codifying and clarifying the agency's enforcement policies on air transportation price advertising practices; requiring carriers to notify consumers of optional fees related to air transportation and of increases in baggage fees; prohibiting post-purchase price increases; requiring carriers to provide passengers timely notice of flight status changes such as delays and cancellations; and prohibiting carriers from imposing unfair contract of carriage choice-of-forum provisions.

Most of the new rules are effective Aug. 23, 2011.

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