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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Flyers take note, with the New Year come a number of new rules set to go into effect later this month.

As NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, they'll give air travelers new rights and compel airlines and travel sites to be more up front about the price of flying.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Right now, some airlines and travel sites lure you in with very low fares and a tiny asterisk. In the fine print or another screen, you'll find government taxes and fees and perhaps a fuel surcharge.

Kate Hanni, FlyersRights.org, says lots of travelers complained.

KATE HANNI: People would get up against the point where they were about to make a purchase, and suddenly the cost of their ticket went up because of these taxes and charges.

KAUFMAN: And comparing prices wasn't easy. Take the currently advertised $79 fare between Los Angeles and Seattle. Taxes and fees bring the ticket to about 90 bucks but it can cost as much as a hundred, depending on the route. And if you're planning to go abroad...

JOE MEGIBOW: International fares, certainly, is where we see the biggest hit.

KAUFMAN: That's Joe Megibow. The vice president of the online travel agency Expedia, says charges on international flights can total hundreds of dollars, sometimes more than the ticket itself. He believes all the charges should be disclosed up front. The federal government thinks so, too.

Here's the Department of Transportation's general counsel Bob Rivkin.

BOB RIVKIN: We think consumers should have the right to know what they're paying for their airfare. They need to have an effective means of comparing alternative methods of travel, and that's what we are trying to provide.

KAUFMAN: With a new rule that goes into effect later this month. It will require airlines and others to include government taxes and fees, along with any mandatory charges in their advertised fares.

Steve Lott, a spokesman for Airlines for America, the industry's largest trade group, says the airlines will comply but they aren't very happy.

STEVE LOTT: The odd thing is this type of regulation does not apply to any other industry.

KAUFMAN: He points out rental car rental companies don't have to disclose taxes and fees in their ads, nor do retailers who sell TVs. Moreover, the airlines say the rule violates their right to free speech. Southwest and a couple of smaller carriers have filed suit in federal court.

Other rules are also slated to go into effect later this month. One will allow you to cancel a reservation within 24 hours with no penalty. Others require additional disclosures concerning baggage fees; compel more timely notification when flights are delayed or canceled; and prohibit post-purchase price increases.

Passenger advocate Kate Hanni says last September, hundreds of travelers bought what they thought were low introductory fare tickets on Korean Airlines.

HANNI: And then two months later, Korean Air sent a letter to every single passenger that purchased those tickets and said: We're going to be cancelling your tickets unless you want to pay us this amount more.

KAUFMAN: Under the new rules, the government could fine the airline for its actions and compel it to honor the original price.

What else can consumers expect in the coming year? Expedia's Joe Megibow says passengers are likely to experience more of what they didn't like about air travel last year.

MEGIBOW: They were paying more money, getting more of those middle seats, you know, crazy check-in and check-outs as you were getting under those very full planes. So, yeah, it was not overall a great year for flying. We haven't seen anything to indicate it's going to be a whole lot different in 2012, but we'll see.

KAUFMAN: Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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