School is out and families are planning vacations.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a Consumer Alert to help Arkansans avoid common pitfalls as they make vacation arrangements that include air travel.
Traveling by air is often a good option, but air travel brings its own set of challenges, including flight cancellations, security requirements and unexpected fees.
"We want to assist travelers in reducing headaches from air travel," McDaniel said. "By planning ahead and knowing your rights, you can avoid a lot of hassle."
Those who haven't traveled by air for a while should be aware that airlines have begun charging additional fees in recent years for various things, such as luggage, and sometimes those charges aren't apparent until after flights are booked.
Airlines must prominently disclose various fees and costs on their websites so that customers know about fees for baggage, changing or canceling reservations or preferred seating assignments. Airlines also must disclose baggage fees on e-ticket confirmations.
Federal regulations require airlines that charge baggage fees to refund the money when bags are lost.
Airlines must follow federal rules requiring them to include taxes and security and fuel surcharges in advertisements.
Delays and cancellations are frustrating inconveniences for air travelers. Consumers should know that airlines are required to provide passengers timely notice of flight delays and cancellations. Also, U.S. Department of Transportation's ban on lengthy tarmac delays covers the international flights of foreign airlines at U.S. airports, and domestic flights at small-hub and non-hub airports.
Travelers have the right to retain their original ticket and use it for another flight. They can request an "involuntary refund" for your bumped fare if you choose to make your own alternate travel arrangements.
Asking the original carrier to "endorse" the ticket to the new airline may save on time and on a fare increase, however airlines are not required to provide endorsements. During a lengthy delay, airlines often provide compensation for meals or overnight stays if requested.
If there are no volunteers, an airline can "bump" passengers, but the passenger must receive compensation. When flights are overbooked, airlines must offer compensation for passengers willing to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight.
McDaniel offered additional advice to Arkansas air travelers:
Be flexible with travel plans. Flying Saturdays, at midweek or during off-peak hours often means lower fares and less-crowded airports.
Plan for your trip ahead of time. Check airline ticket prices early, since discounted seats often sell quickly.
Be willing to use alternate airports or consider flights with connections. Some airports may have better prices than other nearby locations to the same destination. Remember that making connections (changing planes) or one-stop flights can often be less expensive than nonstop flights.
Plan ahead when packing. Items like scissors, razors, and large bottles of liquids are prohibited from carry-on bags. Those items should be in checked suitcases. Some other items are banned from flying altogether. Visit www.tsa.gov for a full list of prohibited items.
Before leaving for the airport, check for flight delays and cancellations on airline websites.
For the full interview watch the posted video.