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Airlines: Better Service...Really

Plane's late. Overbooked. Luggage lost.

Those tales of travel misery are familiar to just about anyone who flies, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman. But all the major airlines pledge it's going to get better.

Responding to complaints from irate customers, U.S. carriers Wednesday introduced The Airline Customer Service Commitment, a new plan designed to notify passengers of low fares and flight delays and provide prompt ticket refunds.

"We will give you more information ahead of time on fares, more information at the airport about what's happening as far as flights go." says Vicki Escarra, Delta Airlines' executive vice president for customer service.

The airlines are also promising to offer consumers more flexibility on ticket purchases, prompt refunds and improved baggage handling.

"You will notice just more and better information across your travel experience,"says Escarra.

This follows a year when the number of customer complaints doubled.

"I've been flying so long and I've seen customer service go down and down and down and turn almost into a bus service," says airline passenger Robert Rockwood.

Passenger Nancy Miller says, "They're not improving anything. They're advertising things that they've already had, things that they don't hold up to."

It was after Northwest left a planeload of passengers stranded on a runway for eight hours last winter that the airlines knew they had to do something. Congress was threatening to step in, but the airlines persuaded the politicians that they can police themselves.

Some politicians are still skeptical. "This is old wine in new bottles," says Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "If you look systematically at what the airline industry is talking about, this is basically a restatement of rights passengers have."

The airlines may have ducked regulation, but they haven't ducked government scrutiny. For the next year, the Department of Transportation is going to have auditors crisscrossing the country evaluating customer service. The airlines know they've got to improve, because if they don't, Congress may force them.