Petition in US to reinstate airline reciprocity rule

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WASHINGTON —, the largest US based airline passenger group, has filed a formal rulemaking petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) calling for a return to the reciprocity rule in time for the holiday season. Under the reciprocity rule, when a flight is cancelled or excessively delayed, an airline must place the passenger on the next available flight, regardless of airline, for no additional charge.

This practice was largely abandoned after airline deregulation in 1978. Since 2010, however, U.S. airlines were allowed to merge into four big carriers, the number of flights has been reduced, and load factors have reached historic highs of about 84%.  So when a flight is cancelled, it now takes much longer to find an alternative flight, and passengers are generally limited to the one airline without paying a much higher price.

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Paul Hudson, President of and a member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, observed, “Several years of heightened computer outages have caused thousands of flight delays, affecting millions of passengers. So the American public badly needs the reciprocity rule back which worked effectively for decades to minimized passenger delays and strandings.  The rule would increase the efficiency of the national air transportation system by matching up empty seats on other airlines to delayed or cancelled passengers at no net cost to the airline industry.”

“It would also give airlines a needed incentive to improve reliability, upgrade outdated computer systems and maintain proper reserves.  As those with good records would be financially rewarded and those with poor records financially penalized, by having to pay for stranded passengers’ transportation on other carriers.”

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The DOT has the authority to reinstate the reciprocity rule under its power to regulate predatory and anticompetitive practices, and to act quickly by issuing an emergency order.  The full text of the rulemaking petition is available on the web site or at  The public is invited to file comments at and at – USNewswire


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