WASHINGTON — The Transportation Department today directed the major airlines to provide on-time performance information and lost-baggage statistics to help consumers choose the best airline service.
The new regulation requires the information to be filed monthly with the Transportation Department and requires that the airlines include a flight's delay history in the computerized reservation systems used by travel agents.
"We believe that disclosure of this information will help reduce consumer frustration with airline delays," Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole said at a news conference.
She said the disclosure requirements, which probably will be in effect early next year, "should make the carriers more responsive to consumers and give them additional incentives to compete on the basis of better performance."
The requirements apply to the 14 largest domestic air carriers and to flights in and out of the country's 27 largest airports.
Dole said the rules will cover 63% of the flights directly and are likely to have a "ripple effect" on other flights. She said the department will exempt from the reporting requirement delays caused by mechanical problems because of concern that pressure to report such delays might pose safety problems.
The department action came as consumer protection legislation aimed at improving air service has been advancing in Congress.
The requirement to include delay information in the computerized reservation systems is designed to allow travel agents to give customers a quick reference to the delay history of whatever flight is being considered. The requirement calls for the flights to give what percentage of times the particular flight has been delayed over a certain period of time.
There are five computer reservation systems in use, but two of them operated by American Airlines and United Airlines are by far the most widely used.
Delays and poor airline service have prompted outcries from air travelers this summer. The number of aviation consumer complaints filed with the Transportation Department has increased six-fold this year.
In July, frustrated travelers organized a new umbrella group which they said is needed to fight for air travelers' rights. Organizers of the new Airline Passengers of America said the group was formed "out of sheer necessity because today's air traffic system is such a mess."
Thirteen major airlines told the Transportation Department earlier this year that they favored the disclosure of consumer information such as on-time performance or lost-baggage information. However, none of the air carriers have been willing to make such disclosures unless all air carriers are required to do the same.