Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Not In It For The Long Haul

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Last week FlyersRights issued a press release on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) issuance of Extended Operations (ETOPS) approval for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the recent approval of the Boeing 787-9 (stretch model).

ETOPS approval is required for two engine commercial aircraft flying long distances away from landing zones.

In aviation slang the acronym ETOPS stands for "Engines Turning Or Passengers Swimming", as the result of a double engine failure is a certain emergency landing in water or crash landing on land when no landing zone is available within the glidepath.

The FAA now allows 787s to be operated for up to 330 minutes (5.5 hours) away from an airport, up from the previous 180 minutes. This will allow flights over empty areas of the Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as polar regions with no emergency landing zones for thousands of miles.

If even one engine were to fail, a twin engine aircraft must reduce its speed and altitude dramatically and will burn much more fuel than normal cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and 500 miles per hour speed.

Traditionally, ETOPS approval beyond two hours is not granted until an aircraft has had at least two years of trouble-free operations. The 787 Dreamliner definitely has not experienced "trouble-free" operations during its short operational existence.

This FAA approval came only one week after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a warning that the 787 battery certification was deficient.

"The recent NTSB report and the numerous safety-related incidents since April 2013, including a world-wide grounding, are clearly reliability and safety issues that must be addressed.

Allowing the 787, a two engine aircraft with many unique features, to fly nonstop thousands of miles from the nearest landing zone is an unprecedented step," said FlyersRights.org president, Paul Hudson.

Mr. Hudson is a long time member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, representing airline passenger interests on safety matters, and has asked the FAA for documentation supporting its unprecedented approval of extended operations beyond 2 hours from the nearest landing zone.

In May 2013, FlyersRights filed a formal petition with the FAA questioning the safety of the Boeing 787 batteries.  We cited expert testimony regarding its safety, even with the encasement of the volatile batteries in a metal box, as inadequate to mitigate the threat of fire or explosion. We also requested a reduction to two hours of contiguous flying from the nearest safe landing zone.

The many battery problems aren't the only safety issues. The airlines had to go to extreme lengths to achieve reliability acceptable during the first year.

FlyersRights.org urges Congress to take its responsibilities seriously and hold hearings with independent safety experts and passenger representatives in order to resolve the conflicting opinions of the FAA and NTSB.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, who overses both agencies, should put the FAA ETOPS decision on hold for at least a year, pending the results of further study, testing and reliability experience of the 787, which has experienced numerous emergency landings, canceled flights and aircraft groundings since 2012 due to mechanical problems.
Follow up on NAI

FlyersRights received several letters in favor of the blocking of Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAI) providing subsidiary international air service to the U.S.
Last week we wrote about the three majors and their fight to block NAI. The airlines proclaimed it would result in the "Wal-marting" of U.S. pilot jobs. This, despite the poverty wages they support for their own regional pilots.
So, congratulations to NAI for doing what seemingly no one in the airline industry has been able to do - unite management and labor in their fight against them.
It is becoming prohibitively expensive for most Americans to vacation overseas, and hard to see how any of the majors could compete on price with the product Norwegian wants to bring to the skies. 
Still, these objections should be seen for what they are - political theater meant to quash a rival's threat before it can even materialize.

FlyersRights' founder Kate Hanni 
with president Paul Hudson

Thank you for continuing the fight for passenger protections and supporting FlyersRights with a donation!

Flyersrights Hotline:  877-FLYERS6 (877-359-3776)
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to the editor, Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

US Airlines Shut Out 
Cheaper European Competitor
Norwegian Air Shuttle Blocked

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Monopolies hate fresh competition. 

An airline that offers some of the lowest fares in the world was stopped by the big three U.S. carriers: United, Delta and American.
Norwegian Air International (NAI), an affiliate of the Norwegian Group, had applied to the DOT to offer low-cost international flights to Europe from the U.S. 
NAI meets all legal, safety and regulatory requirements to inaugurate air service to the U.S. Under the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement it could operate among all cities in Europe and the U.S.

The U.S. has Open Skies agreements with more than 110 countries around the world, including a landmark 2007 agreement with the European Union. The Open Skies policy has brought in pro-consumer airline competition on a global scale, boosting U.S. airports, cities, and providing travelers more frequent, and better air service at affordable prices.

The response of the U.S. legacy carriers was horror. 
A number of major U.S. and European airlines have an iron grip on the transatlantic market using their alliances; Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam. They petitioned the DOT to deny NAI approval to serve the U.S.
Game-Changing Event Leads To A Cry For Protection

The big three U.S. carriers scrambled and sent a letter to the DOT asking for help to keep the Vikings away. "Even if NAI's plans did not specifically violate the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement," the letter said, "the application should be dismissed because it fails to meet the Department's public interest standard."

A DOT spokeswoman refused to comment on the "merits" of Norwegian's case, citing the application's status as a "contested proceeding".

The European Union's top transport official expressed deep disappointment with the attempt by American lawmakers to block plans by Norwegian Air to offer new cut-rate flights across the Atlantic, and hinted at possible legal action if Washington failed to grant an operating license to the budget carrier's long-distance subsidiary.

Norwegian Air planned to begin flights in July from Gatwick to JFK. It would have been the only scheduled service from Gatwick to New York and, more importantly, the fares were several hundred dollars below what the legacy carriers were charging.

A spokesman for Norwegian said, "It's ironic that elected officials in a country where capitalism and the free market are celebrated are not making a decision based on the facts that show how we are bringing in competition, lowering prices and creating jobs. Consumers love us, I guess that is what they are afraid of." 

An Appeal To Uncle Sam

Norwegian Air, which previously specialized in low-cost flights within Europe, entered on the global scene last year with cheap flights from hubs in Scandinavia to holiday destinations in Thailand and the United States. But its business model - which involves basing some crew members in Thailand and hiring American flight attendants - has angered labor groups and airlines in the United States. 

Millions were spent by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), backed by Norwegian Air's rival SAS, on xenophobic ad campaigns to stoke divisions and appeals to patriotism. A sample line: "NAI calls itself Norwegian, but it registers its airplanes in Ireland, hires its pilots in Singapore, and bases its flight crews in Thailand."
Bjørn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air said, "Obviously they want to keep competition out. Especially low-cost carriers."

The irony here is not lost on us. These are the same American carriers that are hostile to government interference when it comes to rules for tranparent fares or humane seat space regulations. Americans will be better off if the DOT gives NAI the opportunity to compete.

To clarify, FlyersRights is opposed to the blocking of competition. We are not endorsing Norwegian Air's 787 Dreamliner fleet, only opposing protectionism by the Big Three.

FlyersRights has urged that 787s be restricted to flying within two hours of landing zones until the aircraft shows at least two years of trouble free operations - and the North Atlantic routes are within that. 

33 Republicans Restrict Competition

Here are the 33 House members who signed on to the DOT letter to block Norwegian Air. We want to know what kind of 'donations' they got for signing that letter:
  1. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.);
  2. Fred Upton (R-Mich.);
  3. Ted Poe (R-Texas);
  4. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.);
  5. David McKinley (R-W.Va.);
  6. Paul Cook (R-Calif.);
  7. Walter Jones (R-N.C.);
  8. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.);
  9. David Joyce (R-Ohio);
  10. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.);
  11. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.);
  12. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.);
  13. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.);
  14. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio);
  15. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.);
  16. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio);
  17. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.);
  18. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.);
  19. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.);
  20. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio);
  21. Don Young (R-Alaska);
  22. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.);
  23. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.);
  24. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.);
  25. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.);
  26. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio);
  27. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.);
  28. Lee Terry (R-Neb.);
  29. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.);
  30. David Valada (R-Calif.);
  31. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.);
  32. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.); and
  33. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.).
Read More: NYTimes

The Fight Continues For Low-Cost Transatlantic Flights
WestJet Triggers Price War With Low-Cost Fares To Dublin

No-frills Canadian airline, WestJet, succeeded in launching a new route between North America and Europe, where Norwegian Air did not.

The airline will make its first transatlantic flight this summer, offering daily non-stop flights to Dublin from St. John's, Newfoundland.
Fares are approximately $390 for a round-trip flight, while tickets from Toronto to Dublin would cost around $610.

Chris Avery, WestJet Vice-President,  said they wanted to bring discounted prices to their customers so that they can explore Europe.

'WestJet's innovative foray into the European market represents a willingness to do what it takes to connect Canadians to the world while bringing the world to Canada. From Dublin, guests can access low-cost flights to more than 100 cities in Europe.'

This comes on the heels of Norwegian Air being denied plans to offer cheap tickets on overseas flights from the U.S.
Shrink To NOT Fit  
(Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP)
Alas, another money-making opportunity!

Airlines are quietly shrinking the allowed carry-on sizes.  

Since the airlines upended decades of tradition by making ordinary checked luggage an added profit center, and economically rational fliers responded by trying to pack in accordance with the carry-on rules, the airlines changed the rules in the middle of the game.

The USAToday reports that airline "gatekeepers" are being stationed at TSA checkpoints to insist you put your carry-on in bag sizers, for rejection.


Recently I had a very unpleasant surprise in the TSA line at New York's JFK airport. No, they did not do a touchy-feely pat down or confiscate something.

Just before actually getting to the TSA agent's podium, a red-jacketed person (who I believe was hired by American Airlines as a subcontractor but not an actual employee) insisted that I put my suitcase in a bag sizer. Keep in mind that I was flying in business class, and that I've taken this same 21-inch four-wheeled suitcase all around the world on almost every major airline and quite a few not-so-major ones.

To make a long story short, it was rejected as "too big." What I didn't realize, because it's never been an issue before, is that American (as well as Delta and United) has updated their carry-on bag policies, including a 14-inch maximum width, and my Rimowa is 15 inches wide, as are many carry-ons. Even though it's an inch shorter than the 22-inch length limit, and an inch below the official 9-inch depth limit, back to check-in, I went. And the line was so long, I almost missed my flight. I was then told that this is a new "FAA regulation," a questionable claim given that not all airlines have the same allowances.

These new size limits are recent. In fact, United made the change on March 2, 2014. Its previous policy was that no dimension could be over 22 inches and the total overall dimensions no more than 45 inches. So these very specific measurements really change the game, and will be causing a lot of headaches -- and heartaches when people learn they will have to leave their favorite, and in some cases, very expensive, bags in the closet.
Or change airlines. It's interesting that not all airlines have the same size limits. Southwest and JetBlue have a more generous 24 by 16 by 10-inch carry-on limit, which makes that "FAA" claim suspect. 
Your Letters!

Dear FlyersRights:

Some thoughts on "People Express" et al.
The original People Express was a low cost carrier of the '80's.  It was absorbed into Continental Airlines in 1987.  I never flew it.

Donald Burr, formerly of Texas International Airlines, the creation of one Frank Lorenzo and a former business partner, was the founder of People Express.  It ultimately was financially drowned in debt, which accounted for the Continental acquisition.

And who, pray tell, controlled and was running Continental?  The despised Frank Lorenzo, who took the "new Continental" into bankruptcy twice, after acquiring Continental for Texas Air Corporation (Texas International Airlines) in the early '80's and moving its corporate headquarters and primary base of operations from Los Angeles, where it had had a storied history, and was primarily a carrier in the western United States and the Pacific, to Houston.

Lorenzo also gobbled up Eastern Airlines after disastrous negotiations between Eastern's CEO, former Apollo Astronaut Frank Borman, and the International Association of Machinists union.  Continental was owned by Texas Air Corporation, controlled by Fort Worth financier David Bonderman, then President of the Robert Bass Group.  Bass is a Texas oil gazillionaire. 

I personally experienced Continental first-hand in the 1990's from 1991 through 1998, both during and post Lorenzo.  I was on their planes at least two days a week heading from or back to Houston on business.  It had to be one of the shoddiest, saddest excuses for American businesses from my observations, flying the airline 1991-1994.  Flights were cancelled when seats weren't full.  Planes were dirty.  Personnel were extremely frustrated and unhappy.  Fear was everywhere.  Management was despised.  Reservations were constantly screwed up.  The airline held records for lost baggage.  They had one of the worst on-time records in modern aviation history.  Planes were constantly delayed due to maintenance issues.  Lorenzo owned the caterer, Chelsea Food Services, and the food was beyond awful.  Bonuses were promised but never paid.

Guess who was responsible for revenue planning?  Ben Baldanza, now CEO of Spirit.  Hm.  Ben got excellent training from the master of how to squeeze blood from a turnip, Frank Lorenzo, and one can see a reprise of the Continental of Lorenzo days in Baldanza's cavalier attitude toward customer needs and shoddy, underhanded pricing practices.  He learned from the master.

Finally Continental's board had had enough of poor financial performance and Lorenzo's ineffective and hated management style.  Lorenzo was a less than honest, cut-throat bean counter at heart.  The only thing during Lorenzo's era that didn't visibly suffer was safety, and I suspect that was the case solely because the FAA and the insurors wouldn't let him skimp on safety more than the law allowed.  Lorenzo hadn't a clue when it came to actually RUNNING an airline effectively from an operational standpoint, and in 1994, under pressure from investors, he stepped down as CEO.

During 1994 the Board hired Gordon Bethune, a Boeing executive in charge of the 737 program, as a senior executive.  Bethune's background was operational--he had been head of operations at Piedmont Airlines prior to its acquisition by Allegheny, which later was renamed USAir.  He also held a jet transport pilot's license.  At the end of 1994 Bethune was appointed CEO and Greg Brenneman, formerly of Bain and Co., was appointed President and COO.
According to Bethune's book published in 1997, "From Worst to First", he and Brenneman discovered at the beginning of 1995, that Continental had cash in the bank to meet payroll for only 30 more days.  Its systems didn't talk to each other, its books were a mess, its personnel in turmoil, its staff turnover rate the highest in the industry, its fleet one of the oldest in the air, its paint scheme only half changed and its brand despised by business travelers and leisure travelers alike.  Reservation centers had too few agents and people waited forever to book flights.

At the end of 1995 Continental Airlines had $1 billion cash on hand and was ranked in the top four in on-time performance.  Employees became believers.  The armed guards guarding Lorenzo's CEO office doors were relieved of their post.  Fascinating story.  Primarily a result of Bethune and Brenneman's "Go Forward" plan devised on Bethune's dining room table in Houston.  In less than one year Bethune and Brenneman accomplished what Frank Lorenzo couldn't or wouldn't in 13 years.  All Lorenzo knew how to do was cut costs, and make employees and passengers hate his guts. The unions particularly despised him.  He took the company into bankruptcy to break the unions in 1983.
Bethune was fond of saying, "Anybody can make a pizza without cheese.  The question is, who's gonna eat it?"

Lorenzo made cheese-less pizza, and only those who had no other choice bought it.  It might relieve hunger, but nobody wanted to eat it, given a choice, even at rock bottom prices.  Ben, are you listening?
Continental wound up with huge hubs in Houston and Newark and instead of dominating the western skies, became the most dominant player in the New York market because of the Newark hub.

The turn-around story is fascinating.

I owe Kate Hanni a debt of gratitude.  Three or four years ago Delta Airlines went out of its way to abuse me in ways that astounded even her when I made a Houston-Chattanooga trip for an uncle's funeral.  The story was so horrible that she actually called me on a Saturday after I posted the story via Flyers Rights.  In the end Delta finally, FINALLY made amends and has behaved itself with me since.  Her interest caught the interest of an ESPN color commentator based in Atlanta and a Platinum Medallion Delta flyer who got involved.

My frequent flying days on Southwest and Continental are over--I should write a book some day of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Believe me.  There has been plenty of ugly.  Even during the Bethune days, although his office always was horrified and made amends each and every time an incident occurred.  One incident was so bad that his executive assistant for passenger relations gave me 24 positive space first class upgrades after a captain threw me off a plane at the gate in Detroit when the crew wouldn't make room in the cabin for my bag with a computer and sensitive Dun and Bradstreet data in it.  Checking it was a fireable offense.  And I had a Gold Elite card in my pocket that I flashed him.  It was the last plane out on a Friday night on Christmas weekend.  I forgave but never forgot.

Well, this is one way to kill time at the airport:
All by myself
All by myself


FlyersRights founder, Kate Hanni with president, Paul Hudson
FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233

We value your thoughts and opinions! 

Please email newsletter writer, Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Virtual Reality

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Watch your back, Spirit. 

The infamous PEOPLExpress brand is returning to the US market.

Tickets and schedules went live on its website, flypex.com, June 4th and its press release says that base fares will start at "as low as" $76 each way. Flights will launch on June 30.

However this airline will operate as a "virtual carrier". What does that mean for passengers?

PEOPLExpress will only be a ticket seller. Someone else will be responsible for what happens in the sky. 

They will act like an airline except PEOPLExpress will not have its own air operator certificate and will outsource all of the actual flights to a third-party carrier that then operates the flights under their own air operator certificate. There is a fine line between a tour operator and a virtual carrier. 
This is just one of many different arrangements all designed to do the same thing. By creating a daunting web of businesses, the airline is trying to collect profits and avoid any liabilities.

In previous editions of our newsletter, we have written about Manx2, the British-based, low-cost virtual airline. When one of its planes crashed, killing the pilots and four others, Manx2 said it wasn't an airline after all. It was merely a ticket seller.

So, despite its planes painted with the distinctive green logo, its banners advertising PEOPLExpress at Newport Airport, and the flight attendants "welcoming you aboard this PEOPLExpress flight", the airline has outsourced as many possible operational and business functions as it can.

Smoke & Mirrors Accountability and Chain of Command 

PEOPLExpress will lease all its planes from Vision Airlines, an aircraft leasing and charter company which is also providing the pilots and flight crews.

Vision Airlines has had a rocky road. Last year, this "airline" was formally charged by the state of Florida with grand theft.  

The State Attorney General's office contended that the airline owed more than $146,000 in upaid "passenger facility charges" that were collected from passengers, but never paid during the carrier's recent and ill-fated attempt to create a hub at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

Vision Airlines also has a long list of pending legal actions being taken against them for not paying their bills.

Prior to deciding to lease its entire fleet, PEOPLExpress had planned to acquire Xtra Airways and Ryan International airlines. Both deals fell through when the DOT denied the sale to proceed.

In 2012 the DOT sent a cease-and-desist order to PEOPLExpress for soliciting memberships for its frequent flyer club "Club Travelati" before it had a certificate to fly. The airline paid a $10,000 fine.

PEOPLExpress CEO and founder, Michael Morisi, resigned in December 2013. He was part of the first incarnation of the airlines in the 1980s along withHarold Pareti, who co-founded the original airlines. Pareti is now the president of Global Airline Services of Florida, which brokers charter plane flights.

In 2011, the DOT fined Pareti $120,000 for selling flights to the public with no authority from the DOT. 


PEOPLExpress' new CEO is Jeffrey Erickson, formerly of Atlas Air. In 2010, Atlas Air was fined $572,150 by the DOT for improper maintenance practices.

Base of Operations
The airline is leasing 16,000 square feet of office space in the Newport News Airport's old terminal for its corporate headquarters. 
The airport is waiving landing fees and giving the airline free counter rental for a year, said Ken Spirito, executive director of the Newport News airport. 
Spirito said the airport waived a $5.25 per square foot leasing rate for one year - an approximately $84,000 savings for the airline. After the first year, the standard rate increases annually by about 2 percent, Spirito said. 

Virtual Airlines Can't Outsource Safety

When you buy a ticket on a major, established carrier, you do it with the belief that said carrier will do its utmost to fly you safely. It is not only in their greatest interest to do so, but also easier as they control every aspect of the operation.

A 'virtual' airline will sell you an image, like Manx2 did, leading the customer into believing they were involved in the actual operation of the airline, which they were not. 

The story is not all that different from the 2009 Colgan crash in Buffalo.
People boarded that aircraft holding a Continental ticket, seeing the Continental globe on the tail of their plane and expecting the same safety level as Continental. But after the crash it was made clear their aircraft was flown by Colgan Airlines, who underpaid and undertrained their tired pilots. 
It's pretty certain that many passengers would not buy tickets from virtual airlines if they knew about their structure. It's a misleading business model where frontline companies are taking the customers' money but hedging all responsibilities to third parties which the client is unaware of. 
That's fair enough when you're buying a phone or internet contract, but in the case of an airline, the product is safety itself.   
Who's Flying the Plane?

This is going to be a long summer.

Last month, a pilot for a Delta Connection flight failed to show up at JFK, leaving all the passengers in a lurch.   

Given the crew shortages at regionals, we're going to see more of this, at least until the regionals can afford to pay more and attract more pilots.

FlyersRights has written about poor pilot pay and the fact there are plenty of pilots qualified to do the job -but a shortage of qualified pilots willing to work for the low pay and work rules at most of the regionals.

Of course, Delta compounded the problem by delaying assistance to its passengers more than 24 hours. The airline has plenty of humans on the payroll to help, including at JFK. Anytime passengers are delayed more than eight daytime hours, without weather, is an emergency.

For all of this, Delta couldn't manage anything other than a $100 gift card.  

What this sounds like is the airline scheduling crews in such a way that if there are delays or canceled flights, the airline just accepts the associated costs rather than hire too many pilots to have on reserve in case crews time out.

This is obviously a financial move, not a marketing one. What's odd is that we never hear of this issue happening in Europe.
A Word From Our President

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which recently lost its United hub status, now has a new way to delay and inconvenience passengers. 

Its monopoly shuttle to its car rental center now features a shuttle to a shuttle, because Dollar, Thifty and other auto rental car companies pulled out of its high-delay, high-fee car rental center, and the airport bars rental car courtesy vans.  

Way to go Cleveland!  Now pioneering the shuttle to a shuttle, driving away more passengers. And another plus for no-shuttle, Akron-Canton airport. 

Flyersrights.org urges all airports to include passenger representatives on their governing boards. Without that, the conventional bone-headed airport management strategies of squeezing passengers with ever more delays and expenses will continue. 

Paul Hudson
Job Postings of the Week!
  • Hot from the DOT:
The Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking exceptional candidates to fill two attorney positions at DOT Headquarters.  Through negotiated cease and desist orders with civil penalties or through administrative hearings, attorneys in the office enforce Federal aviation statutes and rules protecting the civil rights and economic interests of air travel consumers.  Successful candidates will be hired in the GS-11 through GS-13 range depending on experience.  See attached vacancy announcement for more information.  If interested, by Monday,  June 16, 2014, please submit your resume to C70aviationenfc@dot.gov or by mail to the following address:

                Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (C-70)
                Office of the General Counsel
                U.S. Department of Transportation
Attn: Ms. Wilma Glover
                1200 New Jersey Ave., SE 20590, W96-429 
For more information, please call at 202-366-9342.

Applicants are encouraged to also apply through USAJobs at the link below:

  • Hot from FlyersRights:
Wanted IT/social media coordinator PT 10+ hours per week. Send resume and cover letter by June 20 to paul@flyersrights.org.

Also, we need volunteers who are willing to contact members of Congress in support of the FlyersRights Airline Passengers Bill of Rights! Please contact us by email or phone. Critical time for introduction of legislaton is approaching.
800-662-1859, Paul@flyersrights.org
Video of the Week! 

We've lost a lot over the years...
North Central Airlines Promo Film - 1972
North Central Airlines Promo Film - 1972


FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Flying Higher

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
This week we're looking backwards and forwards - recalling the past and planning the future in light of the grand opening of our Washington DC office.
FlyersRights Has Got Your Back
You're traveling this summer, and the chances your flight will be delayed or cancelled is good, especially now that there are fewer airlines. The recent mergers means reduced service to cities, packed airlines, more difficulty rebooking flights, fewer alternatives, and with the unpredictability of summer storms, you have the potential for chaos.

For this reason, it's good to to know what your rights are --your FlyersRights!

Attention, Airlines: This Is Your Passenger Speaking

Trapped on the Tarmac
Trapped on the Tarmac
We are responsible for this!

It all started on December 29, 2006 with 121 planes stranded. If not for our group, this change wouldn't have happened.

We Did This!

2007 - The Coalition for Passenger Rights founded.

2008 - Big win with bumping compensation. DOT made several changes with the most important being a doubling of the maximum cash compensation to $400 for domestic flights and $800 for international flights.

2010 - This is big! FlyersRights gets the 3-Hour Tarmac Delay Rule passed. This made it illegal for planes to sit on the tarmac for over three hours, and international flights four hours.

2011 - Increase of bumping compensation to $650-$1300 
International Flights will have to report data for 
time on the tarmac. 

Delta Flight 6499, SEVEN HOURS on the tarmac
Delta Flight 6499, 7 HOURS on tarmac
2012 - Disclosure of Taxes and Fees in Published Fares-
The DOT requires airlines to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, instead of simply putting asterisks with all the taxes and fees in the fine print. Airlines must also disclose baggage fees, though this can come in the form of a link to another Web page with the baggage fee information.

2012 - Change or Cancel the Ticket-
Our rule requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.

2012 - Route Changes-
DOT now requires airlines to give you prompt notification of delays, cancellations and route changes.

2012 - Schedule Changes-
Similar to the routing changes, if the airline changes your scheduled flight to a different time or day, you aren't legally entitled to any compensation, only a refund of the ticket price you paid.

2012- Baggage Fee Coordination-
Airlines will be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost.  Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners.

2012 - Compensation-
You are entitled to compensation equal to 400% of the fare to the next stopover, or if none, to the final ticketed destination. Compensation is capped at $1,300. Passengers traveling between points within the United States (including the territories and possessions) who are denied boarding involuntarily from an oversold flight are entitled to: (1) No compensation if the carrier offers alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the passenger's destination or first stopover not later than one hour after the planned arrival time of the passenger's original flight; (2) 200% of the fare to the passenger's destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $650, if the carrier offers alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the passenger's destination or first stopover more than one hour but less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger's original flight; and (3) 400% of the fare to the passenger's destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $1,300, if the carrier does not offer alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger's destination or first stopover less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger's original flight.

However, we have much work to do now because the abuse of passengers by the airlines continues every single day.

New Staff at FlyersRights!

Working in our DC office, drafting FlyersRights legislation and securing sponsors for our proposals will be:
Briana Carlson
American University
Juris Doctor candidate, Washington College of Law
BA Peace Studies, Sociology, Chapman University

Andrew Appelbaum
Georgetown University Law Center, Juris Doctor candidate
American University
BS in Economics and BA in Political Science

Your Letters!
Dear FlyersRights:
I flew Spirit Air on which of course you can only take one personal item onboard since last year sometime. Poor women...purse or laptop???  Last week I sat waiting for my flight and watched 2 full flights both Spirit board.  The staff totally ignored all the oversized and excessive bags at that point were a $100.00 to carry on.  But nobody paid. (LAX) These people must have had their entire trip of clothing with them.  I need an extra bag for Medications because by law you must have your script bottles with you, which I have many.  I can not take a chance of lost luggage or stolen items.  

Spirit has really put people between a rock and a hard spot.  I watched an elderly lady pay an extra $100.00 at the ticket counter because her bag was over 40 pounds, where as you know all other airlines allow 50 pounds. (LAX)  I did watch Spirit in Detroit catch everyone and made them pay.  I don't understand the difference between LAX and DTW.  You can't check in your nice big expensive luggage anymore because they also changed their linear size for your largest bag and of course the bigger size weighs more.  I could have fit everything in one bag but it would have been oversized and overweight and  I would have had to pay extra at the ticket count.  Therefore I had to take 2 bags and pay for 2 bags which you defiintly want to pay for in advance on-line, if you have access to the internet. 

If you don't check-in on-line and print your own boarding pass there will be a charge of $10.00 for your boarding pass at the ticket counter.  Although you can auto check-in at the airport, there are still many people who almost never fly and are not acquainted to this process.  

My mother had not flown in 20 years. Luckily I was able to assist her.  I feel very bad for 1st time Spirit flyers.  They must read everything in their ticket contract, big and small print.  All airlines should be consistent with each other although they seem to be followers of Spirit Airlines.  For now on we will drive for our vacations.

Dear LK,

Thank you for pointing this out. You are right, the businessman has an advantage over a business woman if they both have laptops, but the woman has a purse too. She will get charged for that extra 'personal item'.

More importantly, these fees are excessive and unreasonable. Our FlyersRightsPassenger Bill of Rights 2.0 takes aim at exploitative fees.

FlyersRights has challenged Spirit CEO Baldanza to back up his claim that Spirit Airlines actually offers "good customer service" by releasing all the complaints received in 2013.
Kendall Creighton

Dear FlyersRights: 
I am a combat wounded veteran, and an above-knee amputee who wears a prosthesis.  I am very active, travel frequently, and am very able/capable/mobile.   On May 23rd 2014, I flew to Seattle, wore pants so my prosthesis wasn't visible, and sat in an exit row without any incident.
On my return flight today, Alaska Airline #4 from Seattle to DCA May 26th 2014, I wore shorts and was issued an exit row ticket (from Seattle to DCA) by the Alaska Airline ticketing agent in Bellingham, WA.  When I boarded my flight, and tried to sit in the exit row (17F), I was stopped by Jim, an Alaska Airline flight attendant, and was told I could not sit in the row because I was wearing a prosthesis.  At no point in time did he ask me if I had the ability to accomplish the task required to sit in an exit row, but only that I had to sit elsewhere because I had a prosthetic leg. 
I asked to to show me this policy, and he left to 'check' his regulations, only to return and tell me 'I looked at the regulation, and it said people with prosthetics can't sit in an exit row'  I asked him to show me this regulation, and he replied 'I don't have to, I am a uniformed crew member' I tried to show him the FAA regulation 8900.1 that states:  
C. Selection Criteria.
3) The airline employee designated to determine who may be assigned to an exit seat must make this assessment in a nondiscriminatory manner by consistent application of the neutral criteria.
c) For example, if a passenger with a prosthesis is being evaluated for assignment to an exit seat, the presence of the prosthesis would not be the determinant for being able to meet the criteria but rather the physical ability to perform the exit seat duties.
d) During the screening, if the CH determines that a passenger may not have full functionality of the prosthetic limb (e.g., the passenger has removed the prosthesis for comfort or their prosthesis is in a sling or arm-brace), then they may not meet the "mobility" exit row criteria.  
Jim wanted no part of this, and told me he would get a security agent.  I maintained respectful in tone and manner the entire time, while he was abrasive and and stuck on the fact that I was wearing a prosthesis, and not in my ability to perform the actions required.  After he threatened me with security removing me from the plane, I took my newly assigned seat in 19F, and sat there for my return trip.  
I am very upset that this flight attendant went against what is stated in the FAA regulation, and Alaska Airlines policy, as he was very discriminatory in his selection because of the presence of a prosthesis, and NOT in the physical ability to perform exit seat duties.
I have also filed a compliant with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division disability section.  I would appreciate if this matter was investigated, and if you have any suggestions on further actions that can be taken.
-Adam P.

Alaska Airline's Repsonse:

On Mon, May 26, 2014 at 8:39 PM, <Customer.Care.Reply@alaskaair.com> wrote:
Thank you for contacting Alaska Airlines. We have received your message and are committed to responding as soon as possible, in the order received. Some issues require a more thorough review and currently may take up to 30 days for response.

Should you need to contact us before we've responded, please use your reply button to retain the subject line containing your file number (# 1400583). This will keep all messages together in the same file.
We truly appreciate your taking the time to write. Your comments mean a lot to us and we use them regularly to help shape the future of our company.
Alaska Airlines Customer Care
Phone: 1-800-654-5669

FlyersRights' Response:

Dear Adam, 
The only thing I would add additionally would be a request to the airline and to DOT that 1) any fine be paid at least half for this violation which should be 5-10 times the cost of your ticket, 2) that you receive a written apology from the Alaska Airlines, 3) that the airline be required to educate its flight attendants on the rule and on the importance of not lying to passengers about FAA regs and airline policy, potentially the most troubling aspect of this incident.  Flight crews have great responsibilities for flight safety and are given far reaching powers especially after 9/11 but it important that such power is not abused.

Paul Hudson

DOT's Response:  
U.S. Department of
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Office of the Secretary
of Transportation
June 2, 2014 

Thank you for writing to us concerning your problem with Alaska Airlines involving disability issues.  We were sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction and will investigate your complaint.

We are sending a copy of your letter to the company and asking it to reply to you, with a copy to us.  We will review the response and take further action, as appropriate.  We will advise you of the disposition of your complaint when our investigation is concluded; however, you should be aware that due to the time necessary for the carrier to conduct its own review of your complaint and get back to you and us, coupled with our need to review your case and the hundreds of others that we receive each year, our response to you will likely take some time.

In addition to ensuring prompt corrective action when a complaint and carrier response indicate that the airline's policies and procedures are not in compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the Department generally will pursue further enforcement action on the basis of a number of complaints from which it may infer a pattern or practice of discrimination.  However, where one or a few complaints describe particularly egregious conduct on the part of a carrier and those complaints are supported by adequate evidence, we will pursue enforcement action as our resources permit.  You should be aware that the Department is statutorily limited in the remedies it may pursue for violations of the ACAA.  In this regard, the Department may not award monetary damages or pecuniary relief to the injured party.  The Department is limited to issuing cease and desist orders proscribing unlawful conduct by carriers in the future and assessing civil penalties payable to the government.  The Department may only take such action through a settlement or after a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.  To obtain a personal monetary award of damages, a complainant would have to file a private legal action that may be based on private contract rights or on civil rights statutes that provide for a private right of action.

We have also entered your complaint in our computerized industry monitoring system, and the company will be charged with the complaint in our Air Travel Consumer Report. This report is made available to the aviation industry, the news media and the general public so that both consumers and air travel companies can compare the overall and disability-related complaint records of individual airlines.  We also use this complaint data to track trends or spot areas of concern which we feel may warrant further action in the future.  This system also serves as a basis for rulemaking, legislation and research.

To assist you in understanding the rights and responsibilities of airlines and air travelers with disabilities, I have enclosed a copy of the publication New Horizons that summarizes the Department of Transportation's ACAA rules. Other useful consumer information for air travelers, including the above referenced complaint report and our pamphlet Fly-Rights, a Consumer's Guide to Air Travel, can be found on our website at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov.

I hope this information is useful.  Thank you for taking the time to contact us.


Norman A. Strickman
Director, Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings


Founder Kate Hanni with President, Paul Hudson 

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