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Bumped fliers could get $800

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The government is ordering airlines to double the compensation they must pay passengers bumped from oversold flights to as much as $800 under certain conditions.

Under the change announced Wednesday by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, fliers who are involuntarily bumped would receive up to $400 if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time, or four hours for international flights, and up to $800 if their arrival is delayed longer.

The change, which goes into effect in May, is among several new aviation measures aimed at strengthening passenger protections, improving consumer choice and reducing congestion, according to a written statement from the Transportation Department.

"We are taking steps to improve the travel experience, cut delays and lower fares in one of America's busiest aviation markets," Peters said. She said the department will hold a series of Aviation Consumer Forums to educate travelers and hear their comments.

The new bumping rule covers more flights, including planes seating as few as 30 travelers. The current rule covers flights with 60 seats or more.

The amount of the payment will be determined by the price of the ticket and the length of the delay, and is in addition to the value of the passenger's ticket, which can be used for alternate transportation or can be refunded.

"It's hard to compensate for a missed family occasion or business opportunity, but this rule will ensure fliers are more fairly reimbursed for their inconvenience," Peters said.

Among the other changes:

  • Aircraft will be able to fly alternate routes to avoid severe weather, including an "escape route" into Canadian airspace from the New York metropolitan area.
  • The FAA will open a second westbound route for aircraft, in effect adding another highway lane in the sky. The parallel route is aimed at reducing westbound delays from the New York area.
  • To better manage congestion at New York's LaGuardia Airport, a limited number of flights on any given day, known as slots, will be made available to airlines through an auction process. Airlines will be given 20 slots a day for 10 years. Other slots used by the airlines would be auctioned under two options: one would retire some slots and direct auction profits into congestion reduction and capacity improvement, and the other would give the profits to the airline giving up the slots.
  • Peters said both options will "provide financial stability to the airlines operating at LaGuardia by providing them with a defined right to operate at the airport for a decade, something they do not have today. These rights are given in recognition of the significant financial investment the airlines have made in the airport's infrastructure."

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