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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Reason for Congressional dysfunction - July 26, 2016


Dysfunctional Relationship
The Reason for Congressional dysfunction
July 26, 2016

To put it briefly, it's minority rule. 
In the House, under the Hastert Rule -named for a disgraced  former Speaker - legislation cannot be voted on unless a majority of the majority approve
So, as little as 26% can block votes. In the Senate, as explained to me by former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole, unanimous consent is required for most votes. Any one senator can place an indefinite and anonymous hold on legislation and the mere threat of a filibuster normally stops the Senate cold.
These congressional rules used by both parties thwart majority rule and popular will in a way never imagined by the Founding Fathers and not supported by anything in the Constitution.

They enable partisan factions, or even a single member of Congress, to block legislation and even shut down the government. When approval of a governing legislature sinks to single digits in other countries it often leads to revolution or a coup.

Short of that, or a state-called constitutional convention, both parties and both presidential candidates should make restoration of majority rule in Congress a cornerstone of reform for 2017.  
Otherwise it will be SOS going forward, as practical, popular and needed legislation is continually smashed, needed compromises cannot happen and American government will continue as by and for entrenched special interests. 
Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights.org
Sarasota, Florida


The Newsletter couldn't miss a chance to take advantage of the Brexit-devalued Pound Sterling, so it''ll be touring the UK until mid-August, and experiencing several flights as a refresher of passenger rights abuses, albeit, nothing like in the US. Until then, we'll be bringing you some Timeless Greatest Hits from older editions. Stay tuned...
Pie In The Sky!
Orig. published Feb. 3, 2016 



Will the Earth still turn if we all stayed home and didn't fly? That's one of the many many suggestions you've proposed to FlyersRights. The letters-to-the-editor we receive show a deep well of anger among air travelers. 

So, in this newsletter we highlight some of the gems you've sent in:

- Let's make a statement to the airlines, just to get their attention, and pick a day or week where we'll agree not to fly anywhere. 

- After 15 minutes, an airline would be penalized $10 for every minute a passenger stood in line at check in.

- If anyone on board a flight finds that another passenger paid less for a ticket, everyone who paid more will get a refund.
 
- No plane would leave the gate and taxi to the runway until it was cleared for flight, saving the airline gas and the passengers time.

- The overhead compartment would be for the exclusive use of the passengers sitting underneath it. No one else could put anything in it without written permission.

- Every plane would have an aisle wide enough to permit a passenger to maneuver past a drink cart to the bathroom. 

- Prohibit irritating announcements. For example, no crew member would be allowed to thank everyone for their patience after a two hour delay, when passengers aren't patient, but mad as hell.

- Passengers would get to judge the In-Flight Entertainment as 'Good', 'Acceptable', 'Poor' or 'Nonworking.' If the vote averaged less than 'Acceptable,' then the airline would provide free in-flight WiFi to affected passengers for a year.

- If your baggage went to the wrong city, the passenger would be entitled to a free flight to that city after he got his bag back.

- The flight schedules would be based on the average time it took to get from one city to another, from the moment the aircraft door was closed to the moment it was opened at its destination.

- If an airline faked a repair problem and cancelled a lightly booked flight to save money, it would be penalized $100 per passenger. (Airlines are notorious for this, and American Airlines has been fined heavily in recent years for getting caught by the FAA.). Same applies to faked mechanicals, fictitious weather, etc.
  
- There will be a cash inconvenience refund of $10 per passenger when the plane being boarded is at the gate farthest from the terminal, which is almost always. 

- Banish announcements saying, 'If there is anything flight attendants can do for you to make your flight more comfortable, please don't hesitate to ask.' We know flight attendants have their hands full and are far too busy to help anyone.

- There will be a $10 cash refund for each passenger for every minute the pilot is wrong on his estimate of when the plane will reach the gate. The cash will be handed out as passengers deplane instead of "Thank you for flying with us." 

- The price of a ticket will not be arbitrary but based on the distance between the two cities spanned by the flight. 

- Airlines that raise fares when the price of fuel goes up must lower them when the price of fuel declines.

- When there are more than 10 persons in any line at a check in counter, the airline must open another position. 

- No passenger will wait more than 15 minutes to have his or her baggage delivered at the luggage carousel after landing.

- We put a man on the moon. We built the pyramids. We discovered and mapped DNA. But we can't figure out how to hire personable, well-motivated TSA staff given their obscene budget, and make security check-in a pleasant and efficient experience?

In summary, it's death by a thousand cuts that makes flying such an awful experience. So let's channel this negative energy into motivation and power. 

We're sick and tired and not going to take it anymore!


Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776


The FlyersRights HOTLINE!




Thank you...


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Send your comments to the newsletter editor: kendallc@FlyersRights.org, 
or via Twitter: @KendallFlyers
FlyersRights.org, 4411 Bee Ridge Road, 274, Sarasota, FL 34233
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Money Makes The World Go 'Round -- July 20, 2016


Money Makes The World Go 'Round

(and helps FlyersRights stay afloat!)

July 20, 2016


Every blue moon we ask for your financial help in keeping us afloat.
The fact is, that time is now!

Help us keep the lights on. We need your donations for office expenses - the Hotline, bookkeeping, resources needed to cover the news and legislative efforts.

Now lets take a stroll down memory lane, to pre-FlyersRights days gone by, when bad weather frequently caused passengers to be stranded on hundreds of planes that had pulled away from the gate but sat idle on tarmacs, in a purgatory of neither taking off nor returning to the terminal, for three, five, even 12 hours and more.

From these atrocities, FlyersRights was born. Despite a hard-fought battle with the airline industry, we achieved a federal rule setting fines of up to $27,000 per passenger for airlines that keep passengers stuck for over three hours on the tarmac.

Press conference "Strand-in" demonstration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (NYT covered)

The impact of the rule change has been dramatic, with the number of flights suffering tarmac waits of more than three hours falling 97% (1,299 to 44) from 2008 through last year!

Still, it's a very important time for FlyersRights. The civil liberties of airline passengers have seen a steady and relentless erosion since the events of 9/11.

Last August, FlyersRights filed a petition with the Transportation Department (DOT) to have the Federal Aviation Administration set minimum seat and passenger space standards. Airlines are fighting aggressively against us and want no restrictions on reducing seat size and legroom, leading to increased health and safety risks.

Last February, we petitioned the DOT to cap charges for changing flights to $100.

We also filed legal papers that got DOT to correct its misinformation in its Fly Rights publication saying there was no delay compensation - when, in fact, the Montreal Convention and EU provide for up to $2,600 for flight delays on international trips.

Currently, we are about to file a rulemaking petition with DOT to require airlines to advise consumers of these rights rather than hiding them, or simply lying to passengers -saying they have no delay compensation rights.

You need FlyersRights because the airlines and members of Congress are battling passenger protections - and individuals have no negotiating power. You accept the airlines' rules or don't fly.

High quality consumer advocacy requires funds!

Over the years we've achieved many goals:

Transparency - Airlines must disclosure all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, instead of simply putting asterisks with all the taxes and fees in the mouse print. Airlines must also disclose baggage fees.

24 Hour Hold - If you need to change or cancel a ticket within 24 hours of buying it, you can do so without penalty (assuming you're booking at least 1 week before departure). You can also hold a reservation for 24 hours before paying for it.

Route Changes - DOT now requires airlines to give you prompt notification of delays, cancellations and route changes. And if you don't agree, you get a full refund of the fare (without any penalties, even for a nonrefundable fare) so you can rebook (at your own expense) a more suitable flight.

Bumping - If an airline bumps you and rebooks you on a flight that arrives at your destination within two hours (or between one and four hours for international destinations) of your originally scheduled arrival, then you are entitled to 200% of the one-way fare you paid to get to your final destination, up to $650.

If your delay is more than two hours or if the airline doesn't make alternate travel arrangements for you, your compensation doubles to 400% of your one-way fare, up to $1,300.

Refreshments, Communication and Accommodation -The airline is required to provide to delayed passengers, free of charge:
•Meals and refreshments in proportion to waiting time
•Two phone calls or emails
•Hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and hotel, if a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary

Lost Luggage - If the airline loses your checked bags, and it was domestic travel, the airline is required to reimburse you for up to $3,300.

Still, much more needs to be done for the rights of passengers who are being squeezed physically and financially as never before. Last September, FlyersRights has petitioned the federal government to create a regulation mandating minimum seat width and seat pitch for commercial airlines.

Friends, FlyersRights is here for you, now we're asking that you be there for us. Your generous contributions will do much to lift us!


Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!
 

We publish weekly newsletters. 
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Friday, July 15, 2016

One Small Step -- July 13, 2016

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One Small Step

July 13 , 2016

Pretty good news for passenger rights.

An FAA funding bill has finally passed through Congress. However, it's not exactly a long-term funding bill, it's an extension through September 30, 2017 and known as H.R. 636, the "FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016." 

Conspicuously absent however are items from our FlyersRights  Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate plans to send the bill to the president's desk this week.

Key provisions:

* The Families Flying Together Act, H.R. 3334, requires airlines to ensure that children younger than 13 years of age are seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them. This should be obvious, but it was a big money-maker for airlines. What happens if oxygen masks drop, or in an emergency evacuation? Parents need to be next to their child.

* Forces airlines to refund bag fees automatically if luggage is delayed 12 hours after a domestic flight or 15 hours after an international flight. Airlines took in $3.8 billion in bag fees last year. 

* No transferring of US air-traffic control to a private corporation, which was a highly sought after plan of the House Transportation Committee and most major airlines. 

* Double the authorization for TSA's teams patrolling beyond airport checkpoints, such as arrival halls or baggage claims, often with bomb-sniffing dogs to discourage attacks like those in Brussels and Istanbul.  

* Toughen eligibility standards for airport workers who have access to secure areas and conduct more random screening of workers for their credentials and possible weapons. The goal is to prevent workers from smuggling guns or a bomb onto a plane, as what happened in the downing of a Russian Metrojet in Egypt in October.

* Keep Precheck lines open during peak travel times. Authorize TSA to explore different options to sign up travelers for Precheck.

Not A Great Week For Delta 
pic: Soprano In The Air

D E L T A = Don't Ever Land There Again

Last Thursday a Delta pilot landed an Airbus with 130 passengers on board at the wrong airport, arriving at Ellsworth military base where armed soldiers boarded the plane. 

Yes, a civilian aircraft landed with no radio contact at a nuclear equipped base.

With all the technology we have and pilots still can't land at the right airport?  The flight was bound for Rapid City Regional Airport, which is just 10 miles away.
But hey, they still had the right state and right country, that counts for something!

Carbon Monoxide Diverts Plane To Tulsa

A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Denver was diverted to Tulsa over the weekend after a number of passengers on board fell ill. At about 3 p.m., a flight attendant and several other passengers-a total of nine people-reported feeling nauseous. 

At that point, crew operating Flight 1817 decided to divert the plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma. After landing there, the plane was met by Tulsa emergency services, who found that 12 passengers had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. 

Passengers suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning (symptoms include dizziness, nausea, and headaches) were taken outside to breathe in fresh air, at which point their levels returned to normal. One passenger was sent to the hospital for reasons unrelated to the carbon monoxide levels,  according to ABC News.

A Pittsburgh-Bound Delta Flight Forced Back To Paris After 'Blowout' Engine Failure 

Shortly after a Delta Airlines flight took off from Paris on Monday to make a nonstop flight to Pittsburgh, passengers heard a loud pop and began to smell smoke.

A few moments later, they were informed by the flight crew that the plane, a Boeing 757-200, had lost power in one of its two engines and would have to return to make an emergency landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The plane landed safely and emergency crews were waiting on the ground.

Unfortunately passengers reported that Delta did a poor job of providing them with onward travel, overnight accommodations and food vouchers.

Your Letters!

(In response to last week's newsletter, Get EUsed To It)

Dear FlyersRights, 

You may be interested in Atlantic City International airport. They have just enlarged, expanded to 10 gates.

They already have a landing strip, 'space shuttle' ready, built in conjunction with the former air base NAFAC.

Under two hours to Manhattan by bus, and 45 minutes to Philadelphia, it is
ripe for a WOW air, or Ryanair to bring flights in from the EU.

Also gamblers can stay a night or two in a Casino Hotel. The situation looks perfect to be a new feeder airport (think Stansted or Luton).

So far not much going on. It could certainly help the Atlantic City economy.

JH


Dear FlyersRights,

After a flight from Florida to Norway (on Norwegian Air International), I have learned that I hate flying. In my perspective, as a kid (11 years old), you do not want to sit next to random people, have no blankets, or have nothing to eat for seven hours. Do the airlines know this? Most likely, so they just make you spend a lot of money for little things like these.

Most parents might think their kids don't really care where they sit if they get to watch movies on the small screen in front of them. But it that really true? No, or course not. Kids do care where they sit, because nobody likes sitting next to two strangers, do they? In my opinion, airlines should try their own seats to see if they are O.K. for a long while, instead of just testing out first class.

Speaking of airlines, can we talk about the food? Sure, hard pretzels and dry peanuts were at least something, but where did they go? Now it's buy a big meal or add hunger to the list of bad airplane conditions.

Sometimes the plane seats are so bad I feel like I should just stand up, and when you finally get off the plane, I feel like I could do  cartwheels around the whole airport. 

So, parents, if you're wondering if you should just buy two first class tickets for yourself and make your kids sit in the crummy seats, think about how you would feel if you where sitting in the 'sad seats' in the back.

SG
Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!


We publish w eekly newsletters. 
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Get EUsed To It -- July 6, 2016

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Get EUsed To It

July 6 , 2016

Like Whack-a mole: you clobber one rival, and another pops up.
Norwegian Air\s bid to fly new American routes is under fire from US unions

In the space of a week, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) halted expansion plans by Norwegian Air at the same time that WOW air, Iceland's low-cost carrier, celebrated new flights to the US!

Labor unions heralded DOT's rebuke against Norwegian Air, but have been silent on Wow Air - seemingly caught off guard by the plucky airline.

Pushing the envelope

Norwegian Air continues to push for more long-haul routes despite fierce opposition from an alliance of the biggest US carriers, airline labor unions and politicians - including Hillary Clinton.

Norwegian applied for its latest US permit over two years ago, seeking approval for new routes between the US and Asia, Africa and South America. Currently the airline is permitted to fly between the US and Europe. The DOT's decision won't affect those routes, which it flies with a license granted by Norwegian regulators.

However, the DOT dealt a blow to its expansion plans when it turned down the airline's request for temporary permit to operate the new flights. 

It had been expected the permit would be granted, following an earlier approval in April allowing the airline to fly between Cork and Boston.

US regulators said they needed more time to review Norwegian's  'complex' application, which had received support from British aviation authorities and London's  Gatwick airport,  saying Norwegian employs 800 workers in that country. U.S. airports such as Orlando and Oakland, which are scheduled to receive new Norwegian routes this year, also supported the application.

Cracks In The Armor

Americans have benefited somewhat from US's low-cost airlines within their own country, but so much not across the Atlantic.

Critics have said Norwegian is trying to circumvent some labor and tax rules with the overseas bases to lower its costs - charges that Norwegian rejects.

These arguments going back and forth about which airline gets what subsidy are just the latest chapter in a dismal tale. For all the talk of "open skies", the aviation industry is and always has been riddled with protectionism and patronage, bail-outs and handouts. 

Once it was the American railways complaining about unfair competition from the young airline industry. Now it is the airlines moaning about unfair competition from foreign carriers. All the while the interests of the consumers and taxpayers gets forgotten.
Ryanair will start feeding passengers to Norwegian Air Shuttle from airports including Dublin, Cork and Belfast according to chief executive Michael O'Leary.

Why Big US Carriers Should Be Terrified


We haven't mentioned Ryanair, the most successful airline in recent years.

Speculation is that it has agreed to do a partnership to feed with Norwegian, an airline that is doing trans-Atlantic from airports in Ryanair's own home country of Ireland, and which has integrated its booking systems with Ryanair.

This is why big US carriers should be terrified, Ryanair is getting into long-haul by proxy.


FlyersRights' Comments To The DOT

Answer of FlyersRights.org re. the application of Norwegian Air International  for an Exemption and Foreign Air Carrier Permit - click to enlarge.
NAI will inject competition into new markets, driving fares lower for consumers and increasing service to underserved communities.

Approval of NAI's application would produce innovative, pro-competitive, proconsumer, and pro-growth public interest benefits in the highly concentrated transatlantic market. Notwithstanding a vocal minority of opponents, Flyer's Rights, on behalf of all airline passengers, and key aviation stakeholders including consumers, airports, mid-size communities, tourism destinations, travel distributors, travel agents, cargo airlines and their customers, other commercial airlines, plane manufacturers and their suppliers, managed-travel operations, and American job seekers - fully supports NAI.

Get Quoted In The New York Times! 

Dear Readers:
The New York Times is writing an article on the tiny lavatories that have been configured to squeeze in more seats of the new 737-900 aircraft. Flight attendants have expressed concern about safety issues issues related to the lack of space. 

The paper wants to hear from 'passengers-of-size' regarding how difficult it is to use these lavatories. Are you a traveler who has had difficulty with these smaller restrooms, who would be willing to be interviewed? 

Questions are about the problems of getting into the restroom and opinion of the new design.  Are larger passengers forced to use the toilet at the airport before getting onto their flight? What airline did you fly, and did you complain to anyone about the new design?

The interview would take about  15 minutes over the phone.

Email: kendallc@FlyersRights.org to participate!

Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!


We publish w eekly newsletters. 
There's no charge to receive any of them:  

   

FlyersRights relies solely on your donations. 

All you have to do is click below: