The second phase of the Department of Transportation’s Passenger Protection Regulations Rule #2 goes into effect for all airlines on January 24 for most provisions and on January 26 for the Full Fare Advertising provision. A Team of Employees from Southwest’s Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards, Technology, Marketing, Ground Operations, and Legal departments have worked diligently to ensure compliance for both Southwest and AirTran. Below are highlights of the new regulations, and we’ve also created a list of frequently asked questions about the new regulations, Southwest FAQ or AirTran FAQ.
Effective January 24:
Flight Status Notification—If a flight’s status changes by 30 or more minutes or the flight is cancelled, Airlines must inform Customers within 30 minutes of that change.
- Applies to our Automated Outbound Messaging (AOM), Flight Status Notifications sign up service, and Flight Status Messaging on southwest.com.
- Applies to airport displays (FIDS), Gate announcements, and announcements onboard the aircraft during tarmac delays for both Southwest and AirTran.
- For enhanced Customer Service in the airport, our Customer Service Agents (CSAs) will receive the flight status information via their usual channels 10 minutes prior to Customer notifications for both airlines.
Cancel Reservations within 24 hours without Penalty—An airline must either allow a Customer to cancel a ticketed reservation within 24 hours of booking without penalty or allow the Customer to hold a reservation for 24 hours without being ticketed with no increase in fare.
- This rule does not change what we are currently doing. As has been Southwest’s since 2000, if a Customer cancels a reservation within 24 hours of original booking/ticketing, a refund is automatically processed to the original form of payment. AirTran’s former policy stated the Customer had to cancel within four hours, and we’ll make the change to 24 hours to comply with the new regulation for AirTran.
Effective January 26:
Full Fare Advertising—Air fares that are advertised, verbally quoted, or displayed online must now also include all government-imposed taxes and fees that an airline collects for various government agencies. These government taxes and fees include the segment fee of $3.80 per take off and landing, Passenger Facility Charge of up to $18 roundtrip, and September 11th Security Fee of up to $10 roundtrip for travel within or from the U.S. For International travel, a variety of additional fees, in some cases close to $100, must also be included in the advertised air fare. This does not include ancillary fees charged by some airlines (i.e. checking a bag).
- In the past, fares displayed in our advertising and on southwest.com and airtran.com included the Base Fare plus a 7.5% federal excise tax. The additional government-imposed taxes and fees were shown separately from the fare in advertising and added to the total fare at the time the reservation was priced.
- With the new regulation, fares will include the Base Fare plus the 7.5% excise tax, plus all additional government-imposed taxes and fees that we collect and distribute to various government agencies.
- The fare amount with all government-imposed taxes and fees included creates various dollar amounts that are difficult to use in advertising efforts; therefore we’ve decided to round up our fares to the nearest dollar for display purposes only. The rounded up fare amount will be more than what a Customer will actually pay when booking the ticket – the cost variant between the displayed fare versus the booked fare could be up to 99 cents.
- At first glance, airline fares will “look” higher after the implementation of these provisions, but that is only because of the added taxes and fees that will now be included on the front end as opposed to the back end. We did not increase our air fares on Southwest or AirTran.
Full Fare Advertising and Rapid Rewards—The new Full Fare Advertising will not change how points are calculated or redeemed.
- In the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, points are calculated from the Base Fare plus the 7.5% excise tax, which, prior to this new regulation, was also the fare that was advertised/displayed.
- Points will still be calculated the same way, Base Fare plus excise tax.
- Flights will still be redeemed the same way, and the Customer will still have to pay the applicable September 11th Security Fee of up to $10.
- Points were never earned on the government-imposed taxes or fees paid in conjunction with our air fare.