The DOT’s rule changes mean good things for consumers.

When I search for plane tickets, Kayak is my first stop. I punch in my dates and destination and get a list of prices for that itinerary, which include government taxes, fuel surcharges, and whatever other fees the airline tacks onto it base fares.

Then, since my local airport is serviced by Southwest, and Southwest isn’t included in Kayak listings, I like to check their site too. I enter the same info and get a list of departing and returning flight fares — which do NOT include any taxes or surcharges. This makes a cost comparison between Kayak and Southwest more difficult than it could be.

Now, the Department of Transportation has relieved me of this minor inconvenience.

As of yesterday, Jan. 26, all airlines, online travel agencies, and airfare aggregators MUST use the full price to be paid by passengers in their fare listings, a directive that prohibits what the DOT considers an “unfair and deceptive practice.”

And voila, it works. Just went to Southwest.com, checked flights AUS–>PDX, Feb 23-28, and the prices listed on the flight selection screen stayed the same all the way through to checkout. Sweet.

Airlines and agencies will also be required to more prominently display charges for checked bags during the purchase process.

The only people unhappy with this change seem to be the folks at Spirit, who have been lobbying their customers to complain to Congress and apparently have yet to implement the listing modifications, earning them a rebuke from California Senator Barbara Boxer. Good luck with that.

New post-reservation flexibility

Another awesome rule change that I have yet to test out gives ticket purchasers the option of amending or even canceling an itinerary within 24 hours of making the reservation.

Actually, this is probably the coolest get in the whole package. No more crushing anxiety on clicking the “Purchase” button for that $2,000 rtw ticket. If you have a date or a name wrong, no big deal.

* For more, check this USA Today story and this TravelLaw page.

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