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TravelHaven News Brief – Rules and Regulations in 2010

In an article posted on msnbc.com, travel writer Christopher Elliott reported on several new laws and policies scheduled to take effect in 2010. Included in this list are Secure Flight, a new credit card bill, and stricter disability accommodation rules for airlines. Here’s a summary.

Credit card bill (February 2010)
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act was signed into law last May? The full rules require credit card companies to improve disclosure of changes in terms and conditions and give customers a minimum of 21 days to make a payment. Next February, a few new rules kick in

One of the provisions of the law is that Congress will have better credit card industry oversight. Most travel purchases are made by credit card. On a related note, a new consumer protection agency could also help credit card customers.

Of course, credit card companies are raising rates in advance of February, and they’ve been imposing new fees, including ones for purchases made with overseas companies (even if the transactions take place in the United States, and in dollars). The “foreign transaction fee” can apply if the dollars paid by the consumer are later exchanged to some foreign frequency. And credit card issuers may raise these transaction charges – currently in the three percent range – in the near-term as they search for additional sources of revenue. You’ll want to check with your card company before an overseas trip, just to find out how it will affect you.

Secure Flight (March 2010)
The stated goal of this government program is to shift pre-departure watch list matching responsibilities from individual aircraft operators to the TSA. But the biggest effect on passengers is that names on tickets and government IDs must match. Secure Flight also requires airlines and agents to collect a passenger’s full name, date of birth and gender. Domestic airlines are expected to introduce Secure Flight compliance by spring 2010. By then travel agents will have to collect the information, according to the TSA.

Having a uniformly-enforced policy should be a positive development for airline passengers, who are mostly just confused at this point. TSA-watchers question the March deadline, but even if it is met, reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance, meaning that the program won’t be fully implemented until almost a year after the last airline starts collecting Secure Flight data.

Air Carrier Access Act (May 2010)
Another important rule promises to make air travel easier for those with disabilities by making flights accessible, even including those on foreign carriers. Many of the provisions of this rule were put in place this year for domestic carriers, but extend to international airlines in 2010.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows passengers to bring FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrators aboard, as well as other medical devices, which will open up air travel to a lot more people dealing with disability.

These rules are a long time coming. They will bring much-needed change to the system, not just for domestic air travelers, but also international travelers with disabilities.