Why Cheap Tickets Always Cost You

Lost bags, delayed flights, and a lack of transparency

New airline reporting rules might help you avoid views like this in the future. (Matt Trommer/ThinkStock)
Photo: Matt Trommer/ThinkStock nformation sign arrival departure board airport arrival board delay delayed departure destination display flight flights info information journey list screen sign text time travel outside online outside magazine domestic flights reporting department of transportation spirit airlines frontier airlines

That cheap ticket feels like a win—until you land and can't find your bag. But newly proposed Department of Transportation rules will force discount airlines, which have a record of poor service, to disclose more data, giving you a better idea of what to expect before booking your next flight.

The rules changes, explored by travel expert and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, would require airlines accounting for more than .5 percent of domestic passenger service to publicly release their on-time performance, mishandled baggage data, and oversales data. Larger airlines have always been required to report this information, but airlines representing less than 1 percent of domestic passenger service, like Spirit and Frontier, have been exempt.

In addition, the department wants all reporting airlines—including the larger airlines—to include code-share partners (the smaller flight operators) in their statistics, account for lost luggage more effectively, and keep real-time logs of extra fees, helping travelers watch out for overpriced services.

Air travelers interested in the new proposal should leave a note with the DOT online or call the department. In the meantime, make use of Outside's experts and ask our travel agents for the 411 on all your travel problems.

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