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CONSUMER ALERT: AVOID AIR TRAVEL HEADACHES

LITTLE ROCK - With the school year drawing to a close and summer fast approaching, Arkansans are making vacation plans that may include air travel. Flying can be a convenient and quick mode of transportation for a summer trip, a family reunion or even a business meeting.

Air travel can be a hassle, too. Flight cancellations and security requirements require travelers to be somewhat flexible with their travel schedule. Add-on fees from airlines mean more money from consumer pocketbooks.

To make flying as hassle-free as possible, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this Consumer Alert to provide airline passengers with some travel tips and remind them of their rights when flying.

"Many Arkansas consumers have experienced some frustration as airline passengers," McDaniel said. "However, it is possible to avoid many of the headaches associated with air travel by planning ahead and knowing your rights."

In the past few years, airlines have assessed add-on fees for a variety of items, including baggage, which may make the cost of flying higher than it initially appears. For airlines that charge baggage fees, those fees must be refunded for lost baggage.

Federal regulations require airlines to prominently disclose these consumer costs on their websites, including fees for baggage, changing or cancelling reservations or preferred seating assignments. Also, earlier this year, federal rules took effect requiring airlines to make sure their advertised fare includes taxes, security fees and fuel surcharges.

When flights are cancelled or delayed, consumers may seek a flight on an alternate airline. 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 by the consumer.

When flights are overbooked, airlines must offer compensation for passengers willing to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight. If there are no volunteers, an airline can "bump" passengers, but the passenger must receive compensation. The compensation varies depending on whether or how quickly the airline arranges alternate transportation.

For consumers that hope to fly hassle-free, McDaniel offered this advice:
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.
Some liquids may be carried on an airplane, but they must be in bottles of three ounces or less and consolidated in a quart-size bag for inspection.

For more information, visit GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341.

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