STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's check your bags, as well as your bag fees. The federal government wants airlines to refund their checked bag charges if the bag does not show up when you do. NPR's David Schaper is covering this story in Chicago.
Good morning, David.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: So what's the new rule here?
SCHAPER: Well, this is one of several new rules the government wants to impose to boost competition within the airline industry and better protect consumers. Airlines can still charge the checked baggage fee if they choose, but - and there are some airlines that don't charge for checked baggage. But if they do and the bags don't arrive on your flight or your luggage is what they call substantially delayed, the government is now going to require airlines to refund that checked baggage fee. Here is Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
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ANTHONY FOXX: If you pay the baggage fee and your bags are not returned to you in a timely manner, you've essentially paid for a service you're not getting.
SCHAPER: Now, this new federal rules states that the refunds must be provided for baggage that is substantially delayed. But, of course, it does not define substantial delay.
SCHAPER: In addition, the airlines will also have to more clearly report how often they lose or delay luggage and lost and damaged and mishandled wheelchairs - which is surprisingly common - so customers can easily compare airlines on these measures.
INSKEEP: David, let's just remember, bag fees of this sort are a relatively new thing. This is a trend in the last, I don't know, decade or so where an airline offers you a very cheap fare and then they rack up extra charges, including for bags. Is anything going to change about that?
SCHAPER: Well, the government wants all of these extra fees, whether it be for extra leg room or some airlines even charge a fee for a carry-on bag, all of those fees must be disclosed. But most airlines already do that. In addition, the Obama administration wants fuller disclosure of the relationships that the airlines might have with those travel booking websites. These are sites like Travelocity, Expedia, KAYAK. There are all kinds of them out there.
And a lot of us consumers just assumed that these sites are neutral and giving us a list of the lowest fares and the best flights that fit our schedule. But many of them actually favor certain airlines and are then compensated for favoring those airlines. This new rule the government is imposing will prohibit the websites from doing that. And they will have to disclose any bias that they have toward certain airlines.
INSKEEP: What do the airlines say about these changes, David?
SCHAPER: Well, the airlines are not too crazy about them. They say that market forces already do many of the things that the government is trying to force them to do and this regulation is just not needed. Jean Medina is a spokeswoman for the industry group called Airlines for America.
JEAN MEDINA: We've said for a long time that we think the airline industry is probably the most regulated, deregulated industry you can find, and this is another example of it.
SCHAPER: Medina says that it's really hard to find another industry that has been more transparent when it comes to pricing just because there is so much information about airfares already out there. Many travelers, of course, disagree. They say a lot of these fees are hidden and it's hard to find the best deal.
INSKEEP: David, always a pleasure talking with you.
SCHAPER: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Schaper reporting this morning from Chicago.
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