a screenshot of a flight schedule

Shock, horror, awe – these are words most commonly associated with car crashes. And if the main U.S. airlines get their say with the government, it will also be a perfect way to describe the passenger experience in the United States of America. U.S. airlines have asked governing bodies in Washington to change laws, almost all of which will negatively impact passengers. Here are the ten most shocking requests…

a group of people walking with luggageCharge For Wheelchairs

If you know anyone with disabilities, you know how disheartening this is. US airlines are mandated to offer free wheelchair access to passengers of need. They’ve requested that the Department of Transportation remove this rule. This would in theory allow airlines to charge passengers for use of wheelchairs. A war veteran could be asked to pay an extra $25 to fly, so airlines can make money on things they are tired of providing for free.

Make Deals Harder To Find

Presently, airline searches on booking sites must include on time information and results are ordered by price or schedule. Airlines would like to change the rules, so they can pay to be shown first, regardless of price. So you could theoretically search for cheap flights to any destination – and the first 10 results you see would be terrible prices. But after years of searching to see best prices first, you could easily assume what you see is what you get.

Hide Real Ticket Costs

Airlines want to make the ticket purchasing experience like car commercials. You see a flashy number, and when you go to book – you see the real number. Presently airlines must show “all in” fares, with all taxes and surcharges factored in. Airlines want to remove that, so they can show you prices like $25!!!!! But when you go to book, the price will jump on the final page, once taxes and surcharges are factored.

Remove Free 24 Hour Cancellation Rule

For tickets purchased more than 7 days in advance, a free “grace period” exists. If you book a ticket, realize you entered the wrong name, dates or any other mishap, you can immediately cancel and receive a full refund. That’s a great protection, and very fair. You’ll likely rebook the ticket anyway. Airline would rather immediately gouge you with fees, and have asked for this rule to be stricken.

a screenshot of a flight scheduleEnd Passenger Rights Under “Tarmac Rule”

Airlines are no longer allowed to hold you hostage, just to get what they want. For ground delays of 3 hours, airlines must allow passengers to de board and are required to provide ample food and water. Apparently they hate this. Airlines want to strike this rule down as well, allowing passengers to be held on board for indefinite hours, without rights or even water.

No Obligation To Honor “Mistake” Tickets

This would set a terrible precedent. Currently this law is poorly enforced, but if it were removed, which the airlines have asked for – anything could happen. Let’s say an airline sold you a $200 round trip ticket from New York to Florida. It wasn’t a mistake. But then weeks later the Super Bowl is announced and they’d like to resell that ticket for $500. They could claim “mistake” and cancel your ticket without any protection for passengers.

Take Away Refunds For Delayed Baggage

Sure, fares have dropped – but if you want to bring a checked bag, you’re now hit with fees of at least $25 each way, per person. Passengers have come to terms with this. There’s been a great rule, protecting travelers, where baggage fees must be refunded if the bag does not reach it’s destination within a certain amount of time. Clearly, airlines see this as a burden and would like for this to disappear as well.

Limit Foreign Airline Competition

It’s highly ironic that the same airlines which seek to deregulate travel and remove “rules” are hellbent on creating rules to reduce competition from outside airlines. Delta, American and United have kicked and screamed for years to prevent airlines like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Xiamen, Norwegian and other emerging brands from gaining access to US routes and competing. You can’t have it all, can you?

Limit Emotional Support Animals

We don’t find this shocking, but many people will. Unfortunately, loopholes and ease have created a literal flying zoo, with more animals boarding commercial planes than ever before. Airlines are struggling to cope with confusion and frustration and have asked the Department of Transportation to clarify the “emotional support” rights of passengers. We’ll give em’ this one.

Thanks to Scott McCartney at WSJ, Chris McGinnis From SF Gate and Matthew Klint from Live and Lets Fly for unearthing and addressing these issues.



Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. I have an issue, as you do, with most of these however I’m torn on the “hide real ticket costs” piece. Airlines are just asking to be treated like hotels, rental cars, and every other consumer good for that matter where prices are listed ‘+ tax’… Why does a hotel get to add on ‘resort fees’ after the fact? Or why to federal, state, and local municipalities get to hide taxes in the advertised price instead of separately at the end like they do for everything else we buy? I don’t fault the airlines for wanted that changed one at all.

    I’d also like to see the Tarmac Rule changed so that customers receive compensation, not the FAA, or at least a share of the fine money, but overall this 3hr window is a good rule to incentive airline behavior.

  2. I work for an airline and I kind of get the wheelchair thing. I think they should only be free for those that are registered disabled or have an obvious problem walking.

    The problem is, certain people from certain countries use the system as an escort service through the terminal, immigration and customs hall. They have no impairment whatsoever to them physically or mentally but their grasp of english may not be great or they may simply not want to carry their bags long distances or line up at immigration.

    Ask ANYONE that works for ANY airline that has a worldwide system network and they will tell you the same thing. Flights to one country in particular are notorious for having upwards of 30, 40 wheelchair passengers on each FLIGHT (the average for other routes is maybe three).

    Unfortunately these people play the system and the airlines get fed up.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *