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Friday, February 10, 2017

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Keep Out!

February 8, 2017
Barbarians at the gate
WOW Air

Apparently, being freed from consumer protection laws is not enough for the airlines. 

They also seek to stop foreign competition from airlines such as Norwegian Air, WOW Airlines and Emirates. 

Blocking foreign competition will result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Higher ticket prices will directly affect all who fly various US airlines, and so it's important to make sure this issue stays in the spotlight.

CEOs from American, Delta and United will meet with President Trump Thursday, and likely will discuss placing  limits on foreign air competition, and  air traffic control privatization.

As profits soar to record levels, passengers are enduring reductions in flights, shrinking seats, and less reliable air travel, especially from small- and medium-size cities.
The major US carriers want to keep out the big Mid-East airlines: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org and member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, compared the airline industry now to the railroad industry in the 19th century: "Then, railroads controlled long-distance transportation as well as the courts and government regulators. A new word was coined to describe their abusive treatment of the public: being 'railroaded'. Today, Americans are being 'airlined.'"

Furthermore, the airlines are pushing for privatization of the Air Traffic Control system. The plan for privatization leaves little room for government supervision over an inherently governmental function, would transfer all government air traffic control to an AMTRAK-like entity controlled by the airlines, and grant a long list of demands sought by the air controller union, including the right to strike. Such legislation was passed by the House in the last Congress but not acted on by the Senate.

Guessing what Trump will do is like a crapshoot

On the one hand, Trump's view of the airline industry may be colored not by what the current state of the airline industry, but what his experience was back in the late 80s and 90s.
Trump Airlines launched in 1989 and offered hourly  flights between Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.
Trump purchased Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, which had been offering hourly flights on the East Coast since 1961 with moderate success. The airline had succeeded because of its no-frills service, you didn't need a reservation ahead of time, there were no seat assignments, no check-ins, and no boarding passes. You could show up and hop on a plane for cheap. 

When Trump bought 17 of the company's Boeing 727s for $365 million in 1988 he added maple-wood veneer, chrome seat-belt latches and gold-colored bathroom fixtures.
This alienated customers, and with the high fuel prices of the late 80s, resulted in Trump Airlines never turning a profit in its 4 years. As Time 
explains: The high debt forced Trump to default on his loans and ownership of the company was turned over to creditors. The Trump Shuttle ceased to exist in 1992 when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc. 

He may assume its the airline industry is pretty much the same as it was back then, which it most certainly is not.

On the other hand, "no more competition" is the opposite of Trump's economic program for some industries, such as pharmaceuticals.

Alternative Facts

Now American, Delta and United have a chance to present their version of "alternative facts" to a new administration that has already admitted through its principal spokespersons that facts be damned.

These Big 3 airlines will seek to maintain their high-fare, poor service death grip on US travelers by suppressing competition from domestic as well as foreign airlines.

In addition, they love getting all sorts of goodies from taxpayers, be it in the form of sales tax exemptions, state and municipal funding (direct and indirect in the form of payments, guarantees, or landing fee exemptions to begin service in new cities and below market interest rates from municipal bonds, respectively), plus the vast array of tools from the tax code, bankruptcy protection and more offered at the federal level.

They held out their hand to Congress and pleaded for substantial taxpayer funded bailouts in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks. So the notion that the playing field is unfair because they are facing heavily subsidized foreign competitors are, again, alternative facts.

Meanwhile, US airline profits have soared to record levels as four big airlines control 85% of ever shrinking seats, while passengers face reduction in flights, longer less reliable air travel especially from small and medium size cities.

We hope that FedEx, UPS, jetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines and others will have an opportunity to debunk the myths presented by the CEOs of the "Big 3" legacy carriers on Thursday's upcoming meeting at the White House.

President Trump should follow the example of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John Kennedy who stood up to corporate leaders engaged in abuses, not that of his immediate predecessors, who enabled the present state of US air travel: ever worsening service with fares now much higher than in the EU and most other nations. 


Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 

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Hall of Blame

February 2, 2017

Demonstrators crowd the international terminal as they protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations, at San Francisco International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.
AP Photo
The demonstrators blamed Trump, Trump blamed Delta, Delta blamed computers, conspirators blamed Russian hackers and ESPN's Sage Steele blamed protesters.

Around and around it went last weekend, during airport
  confusion and mayhem as travelers in-transit to the US were stopped in airports world-wide, affecting  many US passengers with connections. 

This just happened to coincide with Delta's second 'systems outage' in under six months.

"I want to apologize to all of our customers who have been impacted by this frustrating situation," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. "This type of disruption is not acceptable to the Delta family who prides itself on reliability and customer service. I also want to thank our employees who are working tirelessly to accommodate our customers."

Boy, does that sound familiar.

But it was the widespread protests against President Trump's executive order to suspend immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen that raised the question: Will the US lose tourists who feel the US is not a desirable place to spend holidays at the moment?

There are no flights directly from the affected Muslim countries into the US. And  the US big three airlines have no flights to or from the seven countries outlined in the ban. Regardless,  Iran and Iraq  took steps  to bar Americans.

Now, the concern is a general "knock-on" effect - that international travelers could change or postpone their planned business or vacation plans to the US. 

For passengers with dual nationality, former residency or citizenship, US passports, Green Cards and valid visa holders, there are many uncertainties. 

Airlines are supposed to be able to answer questions and enforce policies, but many, it seems, don't know what to do. 

Tips for international travel for non-US citizens to the US:  go to  travel.state.gov which has up to date information on visas or other requirements.

US passengers can no longer assume that their US passport will allow travel to nearly all countries without a visa, it is always best to check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit.  After 9/11 some countries in retaliation for new restrictions imposed on their citizens to visit the US, added fees and visa requirements for US 
citizens.  

***

Your Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:

Due to the executive order by President Trump barring citizens from several countries from entering the USA for 90 days some legal questions have occurred.

One of them is: if it (legally binding) turns out that the executive order is an unlawful/illegal act, are there any claims for compensation possible? If yes: what kind of compensation would be possible (e.g. for the flight costs, for immaterial damage)? And against who will you file a lawsuit?

I hope that also your new administration will have a focus on delay compensation issues.

Best regards,

Felix Methmann
Policy Officer
Team mobility & travel
Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V.
Federation of German Consumer Organisations
Markgrafenstra├če 66, 10969 Berlin


The Montreal Convention which covers claims for delay against passengers does not provide for compensation from governments.
The US government and other governments have sovereign immunity from civil suits unless there is a law which waives it. National security or immigration or visa regulations even if unfairly applied would not likely provide for a waiver.
That said if an airline were to provide misinformation to a passenger causing delay it might be liable for delay compensation IMO.  Also if a dual citizen or legal US resident was unlawfully or unconstitutionally detained they might have rights under US civil rights laws. Travel insurance might in some cases provide for delay compensation. 
FlyersRights.org is hoping to organize and host an international conference on  airline passenger rights in June or July in Washington DC. The objective  would be to train NGO representatives, government workers and attorneys who advise or represent travelers.  We are looking for expressions of interest, cosponsors, and speakers. 
Regards,
Paul Hudson
President,  FlyersRights.org

In response to last week's newsletter: No Overhead

Dear FlyersRights:

The airlines should charge to put "carry ons" in overhead bins and not charge extra  to "check" suitcases.  It is a nightmare getting on planes now as everyone is fighting for overhead bin space, plus it slows down boarding. On top of that,  I hate getting to my seat and finding that there is no bin space anywhere near my seat because someone has taken my real estate with all their stuff.  Many times people are carrying on more than one bag (no one stops them) and cramming up the bins. 
Airlines should charge one fee and allow a suitcase to be "booked" like it used to be.
D. L. Unger
Richmond, va

Dear FlyersRights:

I respectfully disagree with one statement in Mr. Hudson's message. Denver International Airport, a completely new airport at the time it was built - not an overhaul or expansion, was opened Feb 28th, 1995.  As of 2015, Denver is the 6th busiest airport in the US and 18th busiest in the world. I would ask that he consider amending his statement.  

Brock B.

DIA was started in 1980 and took 15 years to
Build. The existing airport Stapleton was closed and plowed under
With a housing project constructed on the site,
So there could be no competition with the
New far away from town airport.

Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights.org

You should post a correction: President Trump is a builder, but only if it enriches himself. That vast majority of projects that bear his name got there by licensing, not building.

I have no illusions that this president will do anything for the public good.

Sincerely,
Beverly B.
The FlyersRights® Insider




This week's travel-related information tips and suggestions for our readers and members.

How to get through Customs by taking a selfie -  cntraveler.com/2015-10-29/get-through-customs

Things you should not eat on an airplane - cntraveler.com/stories/2016-03-17/5-things-you-should

Why planes shouldn't have free Wi-Fi -   cntraveler.com/story/why-planes-shouldnt-have-free-wi-fi
    
Google's New Pixel and Home Devices for Travel - cntraveler.com/story/what-googles-new

The above articles can be viewed by clicking on the link.  For more in-depth and up-to-date information on these items, please refer to the source.



Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 

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


Get get our weekly newsletter in your inbox!



Friday, January 27, 2017

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No Overhead

January 25, 2017

"The idea is to give customers a choice in the kind of ticket they want to purchase."  
                                                                                                       - American Airlines press release

"Customers have told us that they want more choice - and Basic Economy delivers just that," Julia Haywood, Executive VP at United said. "By offering low fares while also offering the experience of traveling on our outstanding network, with a variety of onboard amenities and great customer service, we are giving our customers an additional travel option from what United offers today."  

(Shortly after making this statement, Haywood leaves United, after a tenure of only five months.)

"We're providing Delta customers with a thoughtful, well-defined spectrum of options as they make decisions about travel," said Glen Hauenstein, Delta's executive vice president and chief revenue officer.
Delta Air Lines is redefining the products it offers customers to further distinguish the choices available to them. - Delta press release









You see, American, United and Delta say you should be thanking them for all the freedom they're offering you with so many new choices!

Gee, thanks guys. 

Trend That's Sweeping The Industry

Last week the third Domino fell - American announced that it would join its 'competitors', United and Delta, and start selling Basic Economy fares next month.

The terms are basically the same - that is, last to board and not being allowed to use the overhead bins. 

The NYTimes wrote this week that it's business travelers who are really suffering with this new airfare, as companies usually require their staff to use the lowest airfare available for travel.

Taking Economy Class To A New Low

What is Basic Economy? It's a bare-bones ticket that allows no choice in seat assignment, means last to board, no stowing a carry-on bag in the overhead bin and usually no frequent-flier miles.

All three majors allow one small 'personal item' that must go underneath the seat. American and United prohibit use of the overhead bin. However, Delta's current policy allows for one personal item and one complimentary carry-on bag. 

United and American's Basic Economy fares will begin next month, but Delta's is already up and running. It was the first legacy carrier in the US to adopt a Basic Economy fare, in 2012.  

You may be asking, how can they increase income by adding a cheaper ticket tier?  

The airlines boast that they expect to add billions to their annual operating income with Basic Economy fares, because customers often give in, or give up, and just fork over more money to check luggage and to avoid 'misery class'.

Why do we have this sneaking suspicion that the lowest priced ticket isn't actually going to go down? Why do we suspect the cost of the cheapest ticket will remain the same and the cost of all of the others will go up?

Right, this is no discount. it means everyone's normal price is about to go up. So, let's call it what it is; another money grab.

The Labor Day Mattress Sale Approach

What's next? "Would you like to upgrade to WingSeat Premium* Class?"
(*Seat belts free with Premium package. Goggles and bird shield available for additional fee.)

One reader compared it to:

MENU A
Hamburger: $9
Cheeseburger: $10
Customer: "$1 for a slice of cheese, that's insane!"

MENU B
Hamburger: $10
Cheeseburger: $10
Customer: "Free cheese!"

But how do they police it? Do they stand guard next to the overhead bin and demand to see your ticket?  What's to stop someone from storing their carry-on in the overhead bin just to stick it to United? 

tasers.

Just kidding. Here is an exclusive look at how United plans to handle the situation -that other airlines will likely copy:

(if you cannot see the below graphic, please click HERE





A Message from FlyersRights' president:
Getty Images

In his inauguration speech Friday, President Trump said: "We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation."

The US infrastructure has aged, and not kept up with new technology and much of the developed and developing nations, especially in Asian countries like Japan and China. 
No new major airports have been built since 1980. High speed rail technology was pioneered in the US but perfected and built in Europe, Japan and China, not here. 

AMTRAK the federal corporation that operates the only intercity rail service has never been able to implement high speed Service and is so unreliable that it takes longer to travel from NYC to Chicago than it did in the 1890s. Rail service is unavailable from Washington to Miami, and between many other major cities and always slower than travel by road. 
A quarter to a third of flights are late and about 75% of congestion delays originate from  NYC and Chicago. That can only be relieved in the long term by adding two new major airports at least 30 miles from existing airports near these cities. Expansion of existing airports have reached their limits and do nothing to expand air space around existing airports. 
However, the City of Chicago and the NYNJ Port Authority that control the existing high congestion airports have blocked new airport construction to maintain their monopoly revenues, and political patronage. 
Airports around major cities need high speed rail connecting them with each other and the city centers but this does not exist in the US. Existing ground transportation is set up to maximize airport revenues not public convenience or economic efficiency. This means ground transportation time and expense is enormous and often takes longer or even costs more than air fares.  
President Trump is a builder by profession, so he should be able to make air travel better and break up or reform the monopolistic, bureaucratic structures and interests that block any true modernization of US air travel.
- Paul Hudson


Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 


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


Get get our weekly newsletter in your inbox!