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Tuesday, September 30, 2014


FlyersRights.org
     Grounded!
                        Tuesday, September 30, 2014

As you might have heard, Chicago O'Hare, the busiest airport in the world, was brought
to a halt Friday along with Midway Airport, due to an act of employee sabotage at a 
control center. Problems were felt at airports from coast to coast.
BOB STRONG/REUTERS

As of Monday, more than 3,500 flights in total had been cancelled, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Workers will need two weeks to restore operations at the air traffic control center, authorities said on Sunday.
 

People are asking: What kind of world-class system do we have where just one person can shutdown flights all over the country, and it takes weeks to fix?

To get a sense of the misery that day, someone filmed the customer service line to 
rebook for one airline at one terminal in O'Hare.
Chicago O'Hare - Ground Stop 9/26/2014
Lined up for all eternity at Chicago O'Hare - 9/26/2014

The clip doesn't include all the passengers attempting to rebook online or over the phone, or who just gave up and went back home or to a hotel.

Where's The Workable Backup Plan?  

With the airline industry overselling flights already, there is zero slack in the system.

When unanticipated events occur, airline operations begin to unravel.

Most planes now fly completely full. While this has helped airlines increase profitability, the consequence of inflexible
operations with little margin for error means when anything goes wrong it takes days 
to get it all back on track.

A screen shot from FlightAware shows airline traffic at 9:20 a.m. Friday over the United States, with a "hole" over the region around Chicago, after hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago's two main airports. (FlightAware, The Associated Press)
From charging for bags, to eliminating meals, to insufficient seat space, to always full planes, and long waits to recover from delays, the airline industry has set up an unacceptable situation.

"It shows the need for live testing of emergency plans by airlines, airports and
air-traffic control, said FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson. "Chicago is a choke
point and when disrupted the effects are national," he said.

Should We Be Checking All FAA Facilities?
This event demonstrated the vulnerability of our system. Considering the government
has poured billions into Homeland Secuirty, it shows some FAA facilities are unprepared
for an unplanned shutdown or direct attack.

Should contractors at air-traffic control acilities be banned?
Aircraft monitoring is a critical operation and should not be compromised by contract maintenance employees. Air traffic controllers are highly screened, take annual 
psychiatric and medical evaluations.

Back in 1995, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure recommended geographically separated redundant systems for FAA
control centers, in response to compter outtages at the same Aurora, IL air-traffic
control center. 

In 1998, the first paragraph of a GAO investigation stated: "Failure to adequately
protect these systems, as well as the facilities that house them, could cause nationwide disruption of air traffic or even loss of life due to collisions."

In the 16 years since that report was issued, the FAA has not developed a single site
back-up control center that could be quickly activated in the event a saboteur, or
terrorists, bring a control facility down.

Instead, the plan is to add work to, at times, already over-burdened air traffic control facilities, reports Chicago's ABC7 news.

FlyersRights' proposed Passenger Bill of Rights calls for airlines to maintain a ready
reserve of equipment and flight crews in times of air transport intruption due to stormy weather, airport closures, severe congestion and airport closures.

EU Skies Alive With The Sound Of Small Talk 

New European safety rules will soon allow the use of all portable electronics, including 
cell phones, at any time during flights.
Phones in flight. (Photo, textually.org)

Under the guidelines issued last week by the European Aviation Safety Agency, European airlines can allow passengers to use electronics during the entire flight, without putting them into "airplane mode."

It will be up to the airlines to figure out how they will implement the new rules. In most European trains, for example, there are "silent" cars where talking on phones is prohibited but it seems unlikely a scheme like that would work on anything but the largest jets.

EASA, which is based in Cologne, Germany, said the new rules are effective immediately and apply to any airplane operated by a European-based carrier, no matter where 
the flight originates.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last year lifted restrictions on personal 
electronic devices during takeoffs and landings - but not cellphone calls, which 
fall under the Federal Communications Commission.

Your Letters

Dear FlyersRights:

Taking inflation into account, today's air fares are still lower in most cases than 30 or 40 years ago, when airline fares were highly regulated. Today's tighter seating has helped minimize fare increases in response to the massive increase in fuel prices over the past few years.

-VT

Dear VT, you can't possibly be referring to the USA when you say "airfares have gone down." That is very wrong. Both fares AND fees have dramatically increased in recent years.

For one thing, an airline ticket today does not get you the same things it used to.
Add in the price of meal plus checked bags and the price decline disappears. And,
seats have shrunk, you have much less leg room, seat width and cushioning. Also,
you're not going to have an empty seat next to you.

So it's an apples and oranges comparison to look at flights from decades ago and now.
It's simply not the same product.

A lot of the high ticket prices in the 70s and 80s were due to the Civil Aeronautics Board, that was thoroughly captured by the entrenched interests of incumbent airlines. 
The CAB limited competition, and ensured that prices stayed high enough for airlines to
be profitable. With profits essentially guaranteed.

Also, airport security has become far more odious, you have to spend more time at the airport, you cannot bring big toiletries or your own drinks, and flights are generally
longer as planes fly more slowly to save fuel.

Such intangibles are difficult to handicap, but, to compare the price of a product over
time, you do need to make sure it's the same product.

Probably a way to look at this would be to compare the price of first class tickets, as
first class still comes with food and free bag check, just as it used to.

Airline prices did drop around 2009-2010 because of the economic recession, but have been increasing since then. In addition, airlines have been cutting capacity which
removes availability of the cheapest seats. That makes a big difference to many leisure travelers.

The situation is, of course, different overseas. Europe and Asia have very aggressive
low cost carriers. 

In the USA, these airlines are much, much smaller, and the deals are not usually very compelling for 'wanna-get-away' travel.

Kendall Creighton
FlyersRights

We Need an App Developer


The FlyersRights.org app needs a new programmer/developer registered with Apple, where you can assume management of the account for FlyersRights.

It's a very simple tab control app with html content. It will need to be available on the Apple app store as well as the Google Play site, so customers can capture on both Apple and Android devices.

Our previous developer will be happy to forward all the source code to the new developer. 

You'll likely be able to add more bells and whistles which were beyond our previous developer's capabilities. 

Contact Kendallc@FlyersRights.org for more details.

Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
1-877-FLYERS6
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

                            FlyersRights.org depends on your 
                                tax-deductible contribution. 
                        

                          
                         Kate Hanni, founder 
                        with Paul Hudson, President
Get the best of FlyersRights' articles, links and conversation, 
delivered each week to your inbox! FREE!


* Email comments to the editor, KendallCreighton or twitter.com/KendallFlyers

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FlyersRights.org
   Plane Filthy
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

With the Ebola outbreak in the back of passengers' minds, we look at standards for disinfecting commercial flights - or lack thereof.

What do airlines do to keep planes clean?

It's a muddy area without clear regulatory standards. The FAA says it doesn't regulate or inspect cleaning.

Airlines say they set their own standards, without regulators, and give instructions to contractors. They use chemicals approved by aircraft manufacturers and conduct their own quality-control inspections.

Carriers don't report what they spend for cleaning, but some have said when they are squeezed financially, they reduce costs in that area.

With nearly 800 million people flying this year, "commercial air transport is potentially an efficient means for spreading communicable disease widely by surface contact and proximity to infected people," the World Health Organization cautions in its Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation.

Some airlines are reluctant to discuss how much cleaning their airliners get, wrote Scott McCartney recently in a WSJ piece. Typically, planes get a once-over straightening-up between flights and usually a more thorough cleaning overnight or between long international flights. Periodically planes get scrubbed from nose to tail when they undergo major maintenance work.

Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights said, "Airlines are exempt from all state and local sanitary laws that protect travelers in other places of public accommodation." He continued, "The FAA is the only enforcer of federal regulations, and since enforcement by the FAA is minimal to non existent, the main enforcement is by whistle blowers, customer complaints and media exposure."



Delta and United Airlines say their aircraft that fly in and out of crisis zones such as western Africa are cleaned with disinfecting solution per guidelines from WHO. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued guidelines for protecting crew members and reporting ill passengers. Airlines say they are complying.

Medical studies have shown that air travelers face higher rates of infection. One study pegged the increased risk of catching a cold at 20%. Much of the danger comes from the people within two rows around you.

But viruses and bacteria can live for hours on some surfaces. Some viral particles have been found to be active up to a day in certain places. Tray tables can be contaminated. Seat-back pockets, which get stuffed with used tissues, soiled napkins, dirty diapers and trash, can be particularly unhygienic.

As USA Today's Christopher Elliott wrote last week, every 18 months to two years, depending on the plane's flight hours, the aircraft gets what's called a "C Check," during which the plane is basically taken apart piece by piece and put back together. Every month, each aircraft is given a "deep" cleaning, where seat covers are washed and the entire cabin is sanitized using government-approved cleaning agents.

Health experts say you can't contract an infectious disease such as Ebola via urine on a seat or dried blood, Elliott reported. You may be at risk if an infected person vomits on you, but not usually in the case of contact with residual vomit.

As for Ebola, there have been no cases of passengers contracting it on a plane in the United States, says Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade organization. "The possibility of transmission is extremely low," she adds.
VIPs Off-Loaded By Angry Passengers 

Recently, a video went viral that shows the power of some good old-fashioned civil disobedience.

Delayed passengers awaiting takeoff on a Pakistan International Airlines flight confronted and booted off the perpetrators, two high-level politicians.

Video: Pakistan's ex-interior minister Rehman Malik thrown out of plane
Pakistan's ex-interior minister Rehman Malik thrown off plane

They expelled a Pakistan People's Party leader and his MP friend who kept passengers waiting for over two hours. 

Such delays to scheduled flights to suit the whims of "VIP" politicians are not unusual in Pakistan but the depth of resentment they cause was finally revealed in this video clip, which showed passengers confronting the lawmakers as they finally arrived.

Many praised the passengers for denouncing "VIP culture".

See the full-length video here.

Earn 'Em And Burn 'Em 


New York Times journalist, Josh Barro, ran a piece recently on the decline of the mileage run - the playground of die-hard business travelers and scourge of the airlines. 

It's worth a read.

Mileage runners aim to buy tickets with the lowest cost per mile and extract as many points as possible from them. This game has not made much economic sense for the airlines, in fact it costs them millions in revenue.
So United Airlines and Delta Air Lines turned the tables on the gamers and increased the number of points required to get a reward ticket, which makes frequent-flier miles less valuable. And they're not giving out as many promotions in which travel earns extra bonus miles.

They're also changing the definition of "frequent-flier mile" so it no longer has anything to do with distance. Starting in 2015, fliers on each airline will earn five "miles" for every dollar they spend on airfare, regardless of where they go. 

As FlyersRights members know, loyalty programs don't make much of a difference to the basic fact that, when every plane is overcrowded, airlines don't care much about passenger faithfulness.
Announcement


The public comment period on the DOT proposed rule regarding transparency of airline fees to ticket sellers and the public has been expended to Sept. 29th.  

FlyersRights generally supports this proposed rule which has been in the works since 2010 but will note in its comments section that the rule is weak, complex and fails to address any of the other matters covered by the FlyersRights Airline Passenger Bill of Rights - (repeal of the de facto exemption of airlines from all state and local consumer protection and most tort law, measures to reduce excessive travel delays, measures to strengthen return of or compensation for lost/stolen property, funding of the previously authorized passenger hotline, arbitration or small claims adjudication of passenger claims, passenger representation on airport governing boards, and restrictions on reductions of frequent flyer benefits without adequate notice and disclosure of actual benefits granted). 

Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights


Tell the DOT here that consumers have the fundamental right to know the upfront cost of their entire trip, and not be surprised at the airport with extra fees from the airlines.

Your Letters 

A big aggravation with air travel is paying $25, $50, $100 or more to check your luggage, then turning into a skeleton at the carousel waiting for your bags to finally appear. 

It's a lot of wasted time an money. FlyersRights member, G.G., is speaking up and fighting back. He's penned a letter to the top brass at United Airlines and we'll run their reply. Here was his situation, we've all been there.

A 90 minute flight Chicago O'Hare to Washington National, arrives on time or a bit early. Then 45 minute wait for luggage to arrive on carousel.

First our flight number was displayed on carousel monitor, then another flight was displayed. Then (after long delay) PA system apology for delay. Then (after another long delay) bags arrive after our flight displays again. This was bad enough when bags traveled free but really, it's outrageous, when we've paid for bag checking. 

I understand this might be UA, or National Airport, or team screwup. But for it to take half the flight duration to deliver bags from plane to claim ought to at least get bag check fee refunded. Fat chance, of course but I'll gripe to UA/National and see what happens.

Thanks for what Flyers Rights does for us all!

We Need an App Developer!


The FlyersRights.org app needs a new programmer/developer with an Apple account, where you can assume management of the account for FlyersRights.

It's a very simple tab control app with html content. It will need to be available on the Apple app store as well as the Google Play site, so customers can capture on both Apple and Android devices.

Our previous developer will be happy to forward all the source code to the new developer. 

You'll likely be able to add more bells and whistles which were beyond our previous developer's capabilities. 

Contact Kendallc@FlyersRights.org for more details.

Thank you!

FlyersRights Needs A Proofreader
Owing to a heavy workload, one of our two longtime proofreaders for the Newsletter has had to drop out.

The job entails checking the draft on Monday afternoons and sending suggested corrections to Editor Kendall by about early Monday evening Mountain Time.

Volunteers are requested.  Can you commit to doing it every week?

And thanks to Lee for his longtime service.

Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
1-877-FLYERS6
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!
                                FlyersRights.org depends on your 
                                   tax-deductible contribution. 
                            

                             
                            Kate Hanni, founder 
                             with Paul Hudson, President
Get the best of FlyersRights' articles, links and conversation, 
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Monday, September 15, 2014

FlyersRights.org
Where's The LUV? 
AirTran Merger: A Marriage Of Inconvenience For Passengers

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
It wasn't so much a merger, it was Southwest eliminating a competitor.
  
What do you get when you merge one low-cost airline with another? At Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport, it's higher fares and fewer flights.

This should be no surprise. Haven't we learned from the wave of airline mergers in recent years; Delta-Northwest, United-Continental and American-US Airways, that the aftermath is consistently higher fares and more fees?

In 2011 Southwest bought AirTran Airways for $1.4 billion, a deal that was rubber-stamped by the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights then sailed through the Department of Justice.

It was such a smooth review process, it resembled a charade to trick the public into thinking someone was in charge and looking out for their best interests.

Southwest made an almost effortless segue into the Atlanta air service market. 
It took over AirTran's main hub which previously competed directly with Delta Airlines in many markets. Southwest then cut several routes from Atlanta.

The Cranky Flier
Before the merger, AirTran operated a connecting hub at Hartsfield-Jackson with 220 daily departures, while Southwest plans to drop that to about 125 in January. Total reduction: more than 35 percent.

Also, Southwest-AirTran's market share at Hartsfield-Jackson has shrunk from 16 percent to 11 percent, while Delta's has increased from nearly 78 percent to nearly 83 percent over the last four years. 

Obviously, no entity has been more pleased with the merger results than Delta. The loss of AirTran took away the very competitive fares once available as a result of AirTran's presence. Now Delta no longer has to worry about pricing pressure.

Airtran's last scheduled flight from Atlanta will be on December, 28, 2014.  After that, Southwest will be in total control of operations."

Southwest's Snowjob


Experts, industry insiders, and the community were all duped. Southwest was welcomed with open arms and was considered a big win for customers because it finally created competition against the old guard of legacy carriers like Delta, American and United.

Southwest's marketing department advertised all over Atlanta at the start of the takeover, hyping that "they're bringing lower prices to Atlanta".

Gary Kelly, Southwest's chairman and CEO proclaimed, "It's about us bringing more competition, bringing more low fares. I think [Southwest's daily departures from Atlanta] could grow significantly ... We'll have more flights than what they [AirTran] have today when all is integrated."

Consumer expert Clark Howard, who was also taken in by Southwest's siren song now acknowledges, "It's been a real disappointment to some people in Atlanta. People who were interested in discount fares have come to realize that Southwest's prices are not as aggressive as AirTran's." 

Aviation consultants BoydGroup International, said that for the third quarter of 2013, the average one-way domestic airfare out of Atlanta increased by 20.6 percent compared with the same period in 2012.

Fares have risen for the consumer due to Southwest's higher prices and Delta matching them.

AirTran Flying Off Into The Sunset 

AirTran was founded in 1993 as ValuJet. 

It had an inexpensive business class, allowing you to upgrade for as little as $50. That included checked baggage and even a free cocktail in-flight. 

When you fly Southwest, you don't have a business class or the ability to reserve seats.

AirTran was playing a key role in keeping prices low at Atlanta, which was lost in the merger. The myth was that Southwest was keeping the major carriers in line on prices. But after AirTran was eliminated, Southwest joined the majors and began increasing its prices everywhere.

And while AirTran operated flights from Hartsfield-Jackson to six Caribbean destinations, Southwest as of January 2015 will operate only two: Cancun and Punta Cana.

Antitrust attorney Joe Alioto filed a lawsuit challenging the Southwest-AirTran deal, claiming travelers have suffered from reduced competition. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the lawsuit, and Alioto has asked the Supreme Court to take up the case.

"Airlines are so concentrated that they are functioning as an oligopoly to raise prices, to curtail service because of the elimination of significant rivals," Alioto said. "It's awful." 

With three and a half months before the AirTran brand is retired, It looks like it will continue to serve these cities until the last day:

ATL
Orlando (MCO) based AirTran Flight Attendants say goodbye to their MCO base. another milestone toward the end of the AirTran operation.
BDL
BOS
BWI
CAK
CUN
DCA
DTW
FLL
HOU
IND
JAX
LAS
LAX
MBJ
MCI
MCO
MDW
MEX
MKE
MSP
MSY
PHL
PIT
PUJ
RDU
RSW
SAT
SFO
SNA
STL
TPA

Total daily flights: 164. Of course, everything ends on December 29th when AirTran's 21-year history comes to a close.
ATL's Future

Southwest's reductions could reduce the Atlanta airport's growth plans for years to come.

Earlier this year, a master plan update was delayed as planners scaled back traffic forecasts because of Southwest's dismantling of AirTran's hub. That is likely to contribute to reduced demand for more gates and concourses and delay the need for a sixth runway.

It's a turnabout for this airport, where AirTran rapidly grew through the mid-2000s.

AirTran sought to gain a critical mass with its Atlanta hub by offering low fares and more flights. That sometimes led to it lose millions of dollars.

But Southwest, which boasts a 41-year profit streak, does not operate a traditional "hub-and-spoke" network. Southwest focuses on point-to-point service, instead of connecting passengers through a hub. Employment at the Atlanta airport has fallen from 5,300 pre-merger to 3,500 now.

No Going Back

Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute said there is little accountability when merger results turn out different from Justice Department expectations. "Once the merger has gone through, there's no DOJ going back to the airlines saying, 'Okay you guys, let's see what you promised us.' "
  
Last week Southwest unveiled a new logo amid a brand overhaul that includes a new look for its aircraft.  

Despite bringing affordable air travel to the masses, Southwest is no longer the industry's low-cost leader. Bargains are few and far between.
  
In sum, good news if you enjoy the cattle call of Southwest. 

Holy cow!  

We Need an App Developer!


The FlyersRights.org app needs a new programmer/developer with an Apple account, where you can assume management of the account for FlyersRights.

It's a very simple tab control app with html content. It will need to be available on the Apple app store as well as the Google Play site, so customers can capture on both Apple and Android devices.

Our previous developer will be happy to forward all the source code to the new developer. 

You'll likely be able to add more bells and whistles which were beyond our previous developer's capabilities. 

Contact Kendallc@FlyersRights.org for more details.

Thank you!

Video of the Week
The TSA Stops Another Terrorist - AIRPLANE! II Airport Security Clip
The TSA Stops Another Terrorist - AIRPLANE! II Airport Security Clip
Cartoon of the Week
Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
1-877-FLYERS6
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!
                               FlyersRights.org depends on your 
                                     tax-deductible contribution. 
                              

                                   
                                    Kate Hanni, founder 
                                     with Paul Hudson, President
Get the best of FlyersRights' articles, links and conversation, 
delivered each week to your inbox! FREE!


* Email your comments to the newsletter editor, Kendall Creighton or twitter.com/KendallFlyers

Tuesday, September 9, 2014



FlyersRights.org
The Price Is Wrong
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Imagine you're in your favorite supermarket, looking for a specific item, but find only one brand on each shelf. The overhead sign says Bread Aisles: 2, 4, 7, 11, 14 or Milk Aisles: 1, 3, 8, 10, 16.

Management has the idea that if they make it harder for shoppers to compare products and prices, more people will buy the store-branded items, which are conveniently placed closer to the checkout, even if they cost more. This eliminates the shoppers' ability to efficiently compare product qualities and prices. 

So you're running all over the store taking notes and calculating the final cost of discounted items. But while you were comparison-shopping, other shoppers scooped up the products you wanted, and the shelf is now empty.


This concept of a not-so-super market is a fable, of course, but the idea behind it is a reality for consumers of air travel. About six years ago the major airlines began charging separately for services that used to be included in the airfare, a process called unbundling.

Many travelers dislike this approach, because it requires consumers to pay separately for services, on the spot or ad hoc. These fees have resulted in billions of dollars of profits for the airlines.

And the Actual Retail Price is... 

But, like our not-so-super market, the airlines have separated many of the goods in a way that prevents more than half of consumers, those who need or want to use an intermediary such as an online travel site, from effectively comparing the total price of air fares and the unbundled services they want.

The availability and pricing for most unbundled services are available only on individual airline websites. The travel agencies, traditional and online, whose greatest value was the ability to enable comparative shopping regarding the character and price of all available options in each market, are shut out from access to real-time, for-sale-now ancillary fee information. Such information is essential to help consumers complete their air travel purchases with the assurance that they have understood the options and made an optimal decision.

You may ask: how can this be? You may have thought that airlines were, as they often claim, vigorous competitors and that their need for revenue would lead them to help intermediaries sell services that earned revenues for the airlines. You may even have thought that since more than half of air travelers buy their fares from intermediaries, the airlines would be sure that these unbundled services were available for sale through them in the more than 143 million consumer transactions they make in a year. Well, if you thought any of that, you would have been wrong. The airline industry is not your grandmother's supermarket.

The airline marketplace is simply not working for anyone but the airlines. One example: the airlines' largest customers are corporations, many of which have multi-million-dollar travel budgets. It is critical to these companies to manage their travel expenses by understanding what is being spent, by whom and for what. These large consumers of air travel typically turn to travel agencies called travel management companies (TMCs) to help them transact their travel purchases and manage their complex travel policies. These large corporate consumers of air travel have been demanding for years that the airlines make their unbundled services available for purchase and accounting through the TMCs they have chosen. The airlines have refused these demands from their largest customers.


Other groups of customers have expressed their concerns about these practices via a petition against hidden fees that has garnered more than 50,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and groups that traditionally represent consumer interests before the government have called on the airlines to distribute the services and fees through intermediaries. The airlines response: fuggedaboudit.

These refusals to honor the demands of consumers for access to information and purchasing are indicators of a failing market. 

This situation has persisted for several years. Among the consequences are increased consumer search times trying to find and acquire unbundled services, consumers paying more than they should for services whose prices are not influenced by competition and many consumers being unable to buy the services they want. These are the natural result of consumers being unable to engage in robust comparison shopping.

To be sure, one or two airlines have recently made purchasable access to their upgraded economy class seats available through some independent sources, but even those airlines stop short of committing to robust and complete disclosure of the dozens of separate services and associated fees through independent retail sources.

So what is the solution? There is one: the DOT can adopt a regulation that compels the airlines to disclose the full array of unbundled services and fees in ways that enable consumers to see the total price of air travel, and pay for it, at any retail source where airlines choose to sell their tickets. DOT has in fact issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on the subject. But while moving toward greater transparency in the disclosure of ancillary services and fees, DOT has declined, at least in the opening proposal, to force airlines to allow consumers buy ancillary services at the same time and place where they buy their airfares.

Unless DOT can be persuaded to move more boldly, those consumers who want or need the services of third party sellers, such as travel agents, will have to commit to their ticket in one place, then go to the airline's website for the unbundled services they want to buy. This entails risk for every such consumer because even the short time between those events can result in missing the chance to book seats together.

Unless and until DOT acts to fix the situation, the not-so-super market for air travel is just going to get a lot more difficult for consumers.

Please consider joining your colleagues on a letter to U.S. DOT Secretary Foxxurging him to restore true transparency and comparison-shopping to air travel.

-By Paul M. Ruden & Kevin Mitchell, Republished with permission from the American Society of Travel Agents and Business Travel Coalition.

September 11th
Flight Attendants: Still The Unsung Heroes Of 9/11

This week marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Airline employees will pause on Thursday and remember the professional pilots, flight attendants and thousands of innocent people who were systematically terrorized and slaughtered on September 11, 2001.

For the past few weeks, in the wake of diverted planes and in-fight arguments over reclining-seats, the public's been asking why the flight crew can't handle passenger disputes? How can the pilots justify landing a jet full of people early because two passengers had an argument?  Even the liquid thrower was not a danger to warrant that move. Terrorist? No. Whiner? Yes. The whole "abundance of caution" reasoning seems somewhat absurd.

Crews Call The Shots

With ISIS and Ebola topping the news, there is a tremendous sense of anxiety among those whose careers involve working at 35,000 feet. 

Wolf Koch, who serves as the Security Committee chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association, says many flight crews are concerned that planning may already be underway for a 9/11-type attack.

Flight Attendants play a key role as the eyes and ears for international
security efforts, and that's why they don't take chances with passenger disruptions.

Should an argument over reclining seats really cause a flight to divert? 

"Flight attendants and pilots are trained in threat levels - and that includes everything from a passenger who refuses a safety directive up to high threat levels, things that could manifest themselves in serious danger to the flight," says Jessica Wheeler, a spokeswoman for Allegiant Air.

 To an airline crew the Knee Defender incidents and splashing liquids on other passengers could be an intentional plot to distract the crew's attention away from the cockpit long enough to attempt a terrorist takeover on the plane. 

Flight attendants face potential danger every time they go to work. New terrorist dangers are unknown. So unknown that the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other government organizations still cannot predict where, when or how an attack will take place. Flight attendants get regular briefings about the latest plots so that they can be alert.
As for public recognition, there's been almost nothing. Instead, what flight attendants have seen over the past decade is a continuing series of layoffs, downsizings and reductions in pay.
Boeing 787 'built To Sell,' Not For Safety

Al Jazeera English takes a look at the 787's troubled development, in a new documentary.

What prevents the sale of unsafe aircraft? 

The tests and data supplied to the FAA were based upon frames manufactured in Everett, the documentary reports, built by experienced workers. And they apparently still had a lot of problems. 

The conditions at Boeing's Charleston plant are not as well known, especially since Boeing made the mistake of saying publicly that the Charleston factory was intended primarily to avoid the unions. If build quality there is inferior, it is in their interest to cover it up. That being said, the 787 issues seem to have stemmed more from the outsourced components than the final build.
Quality control problems are not new for Boeing. Four years ago another documentary was made focusing on the shoddy work of subcontractors for Boeing.

Surely Boeing understands the economics if a Dreamliner fell out of the sky for reasons attributable to faulty craftsmanship. They could just ask BP what happens.

Paying for quality construction is a drop in the bucket by comparison.

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