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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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Family Feud 
Divide and Conquer

May 4, 2016

Great news, summer travelers! The airlines have big deals for you.
Photo: Mark Lennihan AP

If you and the kids are headed off to Hawaii, Disneyland or wherever, the airlines won't make any effort to seat you next to each other - unless you pay a fee!

Being seated together is no longer a regular service, but a frill!

This action is befalling millions of airline passengers who are realizing the posted fare of a ticket is not the half of it.

Umpteen fees get added for items that previously were included in your "Contract of Carriage" - for example: baggage fees, food and drinks, movies, headsets, free choice/family seating and bonus miles!

However, the airlines have repackaged these and they are now an untaxed revenue stream for the airlines.

In 2015 the airlines had a profit of $33 billion due to fees, fuel surcharge and an endless list of "comforts" for the passenger!
We used to call this nickel-and-diming, except the extra charges are way more than nickels and dimes. To get "family seat reservations," Delta can squeeze you for $88, each way

What often happens is, for example, you book your flight months in advance, and group your family seats together. Then -BAM! your airline changed the plane or the time and and you're not seated together. The airline either tries to upsell you on new seats together or directs you to the gate agent to fix. Then you get to the gate and they say ask the people around you to switch.
Well, good luck with that.

Such wanton skyway robbery. How do they do it? By conspiring together to suppress any real customer choice - and by lobbying congressmembers with generous campaign donations to keep them from meddling with their cartel.

While the price of jet fuel has plunged, passengers still get fleeced by a fuel surcharge fee that adds up to a completely-unjustified multibillion-dollar  corporate jackpot - sucked right out of our pockets, according to a recent HuffingtonPost article. (Editor's note: Attention readers, feel free to comment on this article and advertise that FlyersRights has been a watchdog on this for years).

Only four major airlines remain due to numerous mergers. American, Delta, Southwest, and United - now control 85 percent of capacity, and most of our airports are dominated by only one of the Big Four, leaving fliers at their pricing mercy.  

The airlines' lobbying group, Airlines for America, told USA Today that US airlines are "putting every dollar to work for customers, employees and investors."

That is ludicrous. Have you seen any of these improvements? The fact remains, passengers are seeing little improvement and are being squeezed even more.  
Those who say we should run government like a business must not be airline passengers.

Is there a tipping point at which consumer discontent about price gouges turns to rebellion? FlyersRights thinks so. The flying public has had it up to here with fees.
Call To Action - TransAtlantic Competition

Dear members: We encourage you to file comments with the DOT, and cc: us at Paul@flyersrights.org. FlyersRights will submit formal comments this week.
On April 15, 2016 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively approved Norwegian Air International's (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit under the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement. Much is at stake for individual consumers and large buyers of commercial air services, and your support - in the DOT docket and elsewhere - is critical at this juncture to bring competition to the transatlantic market. A final decision is expected after DOT evaluates additional industry and public comments. The DOT docket will remain open for submissions until May 23, 2016.

A favorable, final NAI decision is exceedingly important as the U.S. airline industry has radically consolidated in recent years - especially in the transatlantic market where three antitrust-immunized alliances control 80 percent of the seats. Conversely, failing to approve NAI means higher fares and less consumer choice. NAI would inject new competition driving fares lower and increasing service to underserved communities. More strategically, as consumers embrace and NAI proves out its long-haul, low-cost business model, other low-cost carriers in the U.S. and abroad will no doubt seek to emulate NAI's long-haul success further increasing competition and fostering innovative service levels.

Opponents to NAI are already actively filing comments in the DOT docket. Your interests need to be represented in the docket as well. What's more, the opposition seeks to block NAI through Congressional intervention. On April 28, 2016, H.R. 5090 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as a bill to undermine the DOT and override the legal determinations of the Departments of Justice and State in supporting DOT's decision to tentatively approve NAI's application (see BTC press release at http://btcnews.co/23iTIt6). Proponents are aggressively seeking co-sponsors to this bill, which is intended to kill NAI's application.

I urge you to weigh in with DOT and the U.S. House and safeguard the strategic interests of your organization. Appended below for your perusal are the key points that you may want to consider in acting to make your voice heard to DOT and your Representative in Congress. This is a very time-sensitive matter.

1) A simple letter can be filed in the DOT docket at Regulations.gov, or you can send your letter to me and I will be happy to file it for you.  If filing in the docket, click on any of the boxes that say, "comment now."

2) Your letter to DOT can be shared with Congress with the additional alert (near the beginning) to your Representative NOT to co-sponsor H.R. 5090. Contact information for your Representative in Congress can be found at House.gov . An email is most effective, followed by a fax or phone call.

3) Please consider forwarding this communication to your clients, members, subscribers, travelers and colleagues in other companies/organizations.

Thank you for your continuing support. We will prevail!


Kevin Mitchell
Business Travel Coalition
Phone: (610) 999-9247 

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Friday, April 29, 2016

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Middle of the Pack
April 27, 2016

As if flying in coach isn't bad enough, the airlines are now trying to squeeze every last drop of blood out of a stone they can get by charging extra for the window and aisle seats.

According to the New York Times, it's getting harder and harder for flyers to avoid it. That is, unless you want to pay.

Ironically, as if any seat in economy is so much 'better' than the other legroom-less choices - the airlines are now considering the window and aisle seats as 'luxury' items and seeking to monetize them.

This comes hard on the heels of the Senate's  rejection of regulation of seat sizes, (voting 42-54 to throw out Senator Chuck Schumer's amendment introducing minimum seat sizes and distances between airline seats). The airlines are now heady with victory and piling on fees.

The dreaded middle seat - tight space, no view and no exit

The airlines now want to make you pay to avoid what they think is the worst seat on the plane, the middle-seat in basic economy class.

So, all seats are shrinking but you'll be charged more - and once the seat is so small only half of your posterior will fit in it, they'll require you to buy two seats, as well as an extra fee for the window or aisle.

This new fee is yet another indication that the airlines are not translating savings from a year's decline in fuel prices into lower ticket prices.
Southwest Follows The Leader

In a disappointing show of follow-the-leader, the once-passenger-friendly Southwest is jumping on the bandwagon.
Southwest, which doesn't assign seats, recently increased the price of its early boarding by 20 percent. 
It now charges passengers $15 each way to board the plane first - which is supposed to improve your chances of  an aisle or window during the seat scramble. Why not just charge for checked bags and stop this pussyfooting around with seats?
Southwest's early check-in charge lets you get a boarding number online 36 hours before the flight instead of 24. Why not 48 hours, as most people are more likely to be awake then, at a time corresponding to their flights?  If you have a 2 PM flight, why should you have to be online at 2 AM to get your paid-for advantage?

Consumers have little choice but to accept the hike because the major airlines control more than 85 percent of the US travel market, following multiple high-profile mergers.

The New York Times reports that a number of travelers have resorted to bribing passengers to swap seats with drinks, or even buying two seats to avoid being squashed next to someone.

Would you pay more to avoid the middle seat?

(courtesy: DP)

Don't get mad, get even. 
Support change.
FlyersRights is reliant on your donations. 
All you have to do is click below to donate. 
Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
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  1 (877) 359-3776
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

We publish w eekly newsletters. 
There's no charge to receive any of them.  
We want your comments and photos! Got pics of seats with no space, long lines at check-in, TSA etc.? Send  to the newsletter editor:  kendallc@FlyersRights.org, or @KendallFlyers

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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Hurry Up And Wait 
Airlines speak out against 'unacceptable' TSA lines

April 19, 2016

Shots fired.

After years of passenger suffering in hours-long queues at airport security checkpoints, the airlines are finally speaking up for their customers.

American Airlines fired the first shot last week when they blamed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for unacceptable airport delays.

Now more airlines are joining the chorus of criticism against TSA for security delays plaguing airports across the country. 

"The lines at TSA checkpoints nationwide have become unacceptable," said Ross Feinstein, an American Airlines spokesman.

"We all want security at airports, but TSA has an obligation to be properly staffed to handle the traffic. Currently, they are well understaffed, and there doesn't seem to be any plans in place to address the shortage." 

Did you miss your flight? You aren't alone

The Chicago Tribune reported that 1,000 American Airlines passengers missed flights at O'Hare International Airport in March because of long security lines.

American says 6,800 of their customers missed their flights during spring break this year due to long TSA lines.
Travelers have suffered long waits at airport security checkpoints in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and other cities, up to two hours in some places. Credit, Arina P Habich,Shutterstock.com
Also, the director of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport threatened to replace TSA personnel with private security contractors, as did Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Is this any way to run an airport?

Between airline delays and nonexistent services, flying can seem like the modern day version of maritime steerage.

And what's made things worse are the long lines of rumpled and beaten-down travelers at security checkpoints, dumping their change into plastic tubs and submissively shuffling along in stocking feet.

This is not merely an inconvenience but also a security risk, experts say.

Last month's terrorist attacks in Brussels highlighted the dangers that can be wrought on an airport without an attacker even crossing through the security lines.

Even before the attack, security experts had warned about the risks of the snaking lines at checkpoints and ticket counters - known as the vulnerable "soft side" of the airport. 

Your Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:

Attached is my letter to Sen. Rubio expressing my outrage over his vote on the amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill. I was surprised he finally showed up to even vote. I'll be glad when he is gone. FYI. Thanks. 

Larry Hardee

Dear Mr. Hudson:

I came across your name on the internet. You might not have the time or interest to respond to me, but I figured I try to write you anyway.

My situation is the following, before any of the current turmoil, I bought 3 tickets for my sister's family to fly from Hungary to Los Angeles through Istanbul by Turkish Airlines. The tickets are for July 2016; thus, the trip has not happened yet. I contacted the airlines and requested a re-routing due to the current political unrest in Turkey, the terrorist bombings in Istanbul and Ankara, and the State Department's recent action to evacuate Americans.

The airline has not responded to my request. Is there any law or Passengers Bill of Rights  that I could quote when I am dealing with their legal department? What are the passenger's rights when it comes to this situation?

I would greatly appreciate any advice that you could share with me!

Melinda Gagyor,

Dear Ms Gagnor,
You pose an interesting question on an important issue: what can a traveler do to avoid conflict zones when traveling by air.

As terrorism and armed conflicts have multiplied so have the threats to airline passengers, most recently the bombing of a tourist laden jet over Egypt, the shoot down of an airliner over the Eastern Ukraine killing all on board, and the terrorist bombing attacks at the Brussels Airport and train stations.  Turkey borders on Syria, and has had so many bombings and threats against Westerners and tourist sites in Istanbul that the US State Department has issued travel warnings and evacuated all but essential personnel from its facilities in Turkey. 

Flyersrights.org has called on aviation authorities and the airlines to post and advise passengers of flights that go over conflict zones so passengers can decide for themselves whether they want to take such flights .  In general they have declined to act.

Airlines should accommodate passengers to change their reservations without penalty to avoid areas that have been deemed unsafe for US travelers and it may potentially be deemed an unfair practice or unreasonable fee for an airline to impose a change or cancellation fee in such circumstances.

Flyersrights.org filed a Rulemaking petition still pending to cap change fees at $100 on international flights.  However there is no specific US rule.

Our checking indicates that flights on this airline to LAX from Budapest go through Istanbul so you may have to cancel and rebook on another airline. 

Suggest you first contact these people listed to see what accommodation the airline will make and if that is not satisfactory you can file a complaint with the DOT and US Dept of State Office for travel advisories and Consular Affairs for an unfair practice or unreasonable practice.
Cenk Ocal
General Manager
(212) 261-0470
Begum Dernek Kapusuz
Genel Mudurluk Binasi
Ataturk Havalimani
Yesikoy, Istanbul, Turkey 34149
Suggest you also keep us advised as many others may be similarly situated
And you may also contact our very knowledgeable hotline director Joel Smiler joel@flyersrights.orgfor further assistance or questions.

Paul Hudson

PS - if this information has been helpful consider a membership and donation to Flyersrights.org atwww.flyersrights.org as we depend solely on individual contributions.

I'll just say that in the four times since 1999 that I've been to Turkey thru Ataturk airport in Istanbul, I've felt safer there, where there are visibly armed police and military in the entrance areas, than I ever have at any US airport.  If you don't leave the airport between flights you should have nothing to worry about.  You're probably in much more danger driving to LAX.

The travel warning is for southeast Turkey, which is about the same distance from Istanbul as Budapest.

Dan Prall
FlyersRights supporter and volunteer

Images of the Week:
The new EconomyMinus waiting area? (Denver Int'l Airport)

FlyersRights is reliant on the public's donations. All you have to do is click below to donate. 

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.  
We want your comments and photos! Got pics of seats with no space, long lines at check-in, TSA etc.? Send to the newsletter editor: kendallc@FlyersRights.org, or @KendallFlyers
FlyersRights.org, 4411 Bee Ridge Road, 274, Sarasota, FL 34233
Sent by kendallc@flyersrights.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact