Congressman Brian Higgins announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is revising its policies related to public charter flights in response to hardships felt by consumers when charter operator Direct Air abruptly stopped service in March.
- The Department will reject public charter filings as contrary to the public interest unless they meet specific new conditions.
- Charter operators will have to retain control of all passenger reservation records and share them with the airline to make it easier to identify and contact passengers regarding cancellations or return flights for stranded passengers.
- Also, for consumers not paying by cash, operators may continue to accept payment by credit card, which provides protection under laws that allow charges to be removed from a credit card bill if a service is not provided. Carriers may accept debit cards only where similar protections are afforded to purchasers.
- Public charter operators may not sell vouchers for future travel that are not associated with specific flights because they are not protected under the charter escrow requirements.
- Also, to help ensure that escrow funds are being handled properly, the charter operator will have to show that contracts with the airline providing the flights include the full cost of air service.