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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

       The Plane Facts
         Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Newark Liberty Int'l Airport, Oct. 4, 201

That's where many of us find ourselves.
Whether we're boarding a plane or simply traveling through an airport. We are a nation that feels a bit on edge.

Ebola was the furthest thing from our minds a month ago, even as the disease spread through parts of West Africa. The American public easily dismissed it as an exotic ailment confined to the underdeveloped world.
So it has been incredible, if not alarming, to see how easily global travel can spread pathogens from continent to continent.    
In August the world's airlines moved to cut most flights to West Africa, but planes continue to fly out of Ebola impacted countries.
Just over the weekend the U.S. saw its second Ebola case confirmed, a Boston hospital evacuated and an LAX plane locked down when a passenger became sick.   
Take a Fortress USA or Fortress Europe Strategy?   
Although the U.S. has not yielded to calls for a travel ban, enhanced screening began Saturday of passengers arriving from West Africa at five major gateway airports: JFK, Newark, O'Hare, Dulles and Atlanta. 

Infrared screening of passengers
This week, Heathrow, Gatwick and Israel's Ben Gurion airport will follow the U.S. with airport screenings for Ebola.

African and Asian countries have been screening airline passengers for months, with some using infrared cameras to detect fevers. 
But mainland Europe will 
not follow, claiming the measures are ineffective, because people carrying the virus won't necessarily be spotted.  
Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the countries hardest hit by Ebola, will also be questioned about about their health, travel and contact with the sick, and have their temperatures taken. Quarantine is an option for those suspected of being ill.
Most experts agree that these screenings are unlikely to stop the disease, as it can take up to 21 days for someone to show signs of Ebola and desperate people can lie on the questionnaire. 
Can TSA agents handle being doctors for $12/hour?

The screenings, which will affect only a tiny fraction of overall passengers, are being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP), under direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Currently there are no direct flights from the affected countries to the U.S., so CBP staff identify passengers to screen by looking at trip information and checking passports, the CBP commissioner told a news conference at JFK on Saturday morning.

Using infrared temperature guns, staff are checking for elevated temperatures among passengers whose journeys began or included a stop in one of the three African countries.

Screeners will also assess passengers for signs of illness and ask about their health and whether they may have come into contact with an Ebola patient.
This 'controlled openness' is called a compromise. It isn't as tight a seal as a rigid 'travel ban' or 'quarantine', but it allows a certain higher risk of exposure in exchange for a higher level of freedom of movement.
Most airlines have cut service to West African countries, and the few remaining: Royal Air Maroc, Air France and Brussels Airlines are reportedly charging exorbitant ticket prices and price-gouging humanitarian aid workers.

Bringing in Ebola by the Planeload?

As always, the flying public is reliant on the quality and reliability of the information available.
Ebola screening for arrivals from West Africa starts at JFK 
Ebola screening for arrivals from West Africa

"At this point there is zero risk of transmission on flights," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, supporting other public health officials who have voiced similar assurances, saying Ebola is spread only through physical contact with a symptomatic individual or their bodily fluids. 
"Ebola is not transmitted by the air. It is not an airborne infection," said Dr. Edward Goodman of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the Liberian patient remains in critical condition.

Public health officials and some columnists have voiced similar assurances, saying Ebola is spread only through physical contact with a symptomatic individual or their bodily fluids.

However, Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Development Command, and who later led the government's massive stockpiling of smallpox vaccine after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said much was still to be learned. "Being dogmatic is, I think, ill-advised, because there are too many unknowns here."

Statement by the President of FlyersRights:

It is time to stop West Africans and others from the infected countries from entering the U.S. without quarantines and blood testing for Ebola.

Airlines who knowingly transport passengers from the infected areas may face massive lawsuits, and their insurance carriers, especially AIG the main carrier, also need to step forward before it too late.

The FAA and TSA cannot escape responsibility as they have primary jurisdiction over air safety and security. Ebola is being transported to the U.S. solely by air transport. 

The death and infection rates are so horrendous that decisive measures are essential regardless of sensitivities.

Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights

Your Letters

(In response to last week's newsletter, 'Foreign Invasion')

Dear FlyersRights:

You complain about horrific service from US airlines, then praise the possibility of an airline such as RyanAir coming to the US. Are you aware that RyanAir's service is SO atrocious that riots occur among pissed off passengers on their planes on a regular basis?

This is an airline that is trying to eliminate safety requirements, such as seats and seatbelts on on their planes. If they had their way, their planes would be packed like sardine cans of STANDING ROOM ONLY.

RyanAir already puts passengers at risk by not allowing their planes to carry adequate fuel reserves. This has caused some RyanAir flights to have to declare an emergency because they ran dangerously low on fuel.

RyanAir also pushed to have PAY TOILETS installed on their planes. So far that has not come to fruition. However, they DO try to make their travelers go to the toilet 20 minutes prior to flight (to save weight, reduce costs).

Is this REALLY what you want for the US airline industry?  Be careful of what you wish for... You just might get it!


Dear NF,  no we don't want that, but it's disingenuous to say Ryanair stinks when U.S. carriers have reduced themselves to that of a Ryanair - by strangling capacity, cutting flights, packing planes, contracting out customer service and charging the same fees as Ryanair.

Additionally, U.S. carriers have successfully kept airfares high and charging fees while Ryanair charges a much lower base price before adding on fees.

In short, U.S. carriers have copied the king of a-la-carte pricing, without reducing their fares.

Look at air ticket prices around Europe. A two-week advance fare from London to Frankfurt - 498 miles - on Ryanair is £19 GBP ($30.50).

A two-week advance fare on a major U.S. carrier, for about the same distance - San Diego to San Francisco, 493 miles - runs approximately $242.

Everyone wants to be profitable, but isn't as if the employes of these U.S. carriers are reaping the benefits of higher ticket prices. Their salaries and benefits have been steadily chipped away over the years. It's the shareholders and CEOs who are reaping the rewards.  


Kendall Creighton

Dear FlyersRights,

My wife and 3 yr. old son were on United 763 from Dallas to Denver they delayed the flight 2hrs causing them to miss the connection from Denver (DIA) to Gypsum (EGE) the next flight was 24hrs later.  

This caused us both a day off work and a gas mileage trip 200 miles to collect them with our 1 yr. old the next day and a hotel room for them both (United wouldn't cover the flight and said "tough' on the phone.  So basically we end up out of pocket 2 days work, 200 miles *2 driving and 1 hotel room, United Airlines loose nothing and still have the full price for the ticket.

Thanks for advice.

Dear PSR,

There is generally no compensation in the US for excessively delayed or cancelled flights unlike in Europe, Canada or international flights. 

The normal damages for breach of contact when one party fails to perform is the out of pocket cost to cover the default and sometimes foreseeable consequential damages. 

US airlines with the cooperation of the DOT have of course exempted themselves from all these pesky responsibilities. Airlines use to allow you to fly with your ticket on another airline or provide alternate transportation by ground and would usually pay for lodging and food for stranded passengers, but no more.

You can, however, receive a full refund even on a non refundable ticket if you decline to take an excessively delayed flight. I recently had a Jetblue flight canceled in Sarasota to JFK that would have caused me to miss an international connection. The counter agent tried to say that they could only give me a voucher. When I insisted on a full refund the supervisor had to show her how to process an "involuntary refund" which was obviously a very rare transaction for this and most airlines. We then got another flight to LaGuardia on another airline for a higher price, a cab ride and a dash to just make our connection. 

Our Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0 would fix this and we suggest you contact your Congressional reps to demand they support and sponsor fair rights for airline passengers. Otherwise it will only get worse.

Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights
Please Donate!

As you know, your kind donation will help us continue the fight for flyers rights.

We still have some great giveaways for your contribution.

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Help us stay in the fight!

Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!
                                  Kate Hanni, founder 
                                    with Paul Hudson, President
Get the best of FlyersRights' articles, links and conversation, 
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Foreign Invasion
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Today, with planes flying as full as sardine cans and the holiday travel season around the corner, it would appear that U.S. airlines are determined to tell air travelers to take a hike.

At least that's what passengers might infer from the number of flights cut at many of the nation's airports.

Nearly three dozen midsize airports saw a quarter of their flights cut in the past 5 years -in such places as Milwaukee, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and San Antonio. A group of 76 small airports lost 20 percent of their pre-2007 flights. And 23 airports lost all their air service. 

Airfares continue to rise, up nearly 12 percent since 2009, according to an Associated Press analysis.

With four airlines now serving 85 percent of the domestic market, domestic carriers haven't had to worry about the one factor that could disrupt their cram-'em-in strategy: competition.
That is, until now.

The summer of 2014 marked a new chapter in the development of the global passenger air travel market. Only a few media sources including FlyersRights covered Norwegian Air Shuttle's ambitious launching of international air service to the U.S. 

Back in July, Norwegian launched flights from London Gatwick to three USA-based destinations with some tickets starting at $300, or approximately half the price of traditional carriers. 

Norwegian's proposed Honolulu-Oslo transpolar route goes over the North Sea, Arctic Sea, and Pacific ocean.
U.S. airlines said no fair! How dare they? 

In unheard-of unity, airline executives and labor groups worked together to get Congress to block Norwegian from operating these routes.  

But the floodgates had cracked, proving there was great pent up demand for clean, modern air travel in the U.S., as well as courteous, friendly staff, cheaper fares, and newer planes. 

"We believe that the U.S is low-hanging fruit," Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos is quoted as saying by Bloomberg News. "People love to fly cheap and they love to fly far." 

Norwegian's latest ambition is low-cost transpolar flights nonstop Oslo-Honolulu, reported the Hawaiian Tourism Board on Monday.

Emirates is also interested in flying into America, causing panic amongst U.S. airlines. It currently flies to nine U.S. destinations, including brand new A380 service to Dallas-Fort Worth. 

The U.S. represents just 7 percent of revenue for Emirates, but the Dubai-based carrier is "looking for more points" on the map and hopes to boost its presence in America, said Emirates President Tim Clark at an aviation conference in Chicago last month.
Ryanair, too, has been eyeing a low-fare, transatlantic route for several years. Back in 2007, it was reportedly planning to start a new airline that would operate long-haul flights between Europe and the United States.

Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary said that the new airline, RyanAtlantic, would offer flights to five or six US cities with fares starting at €10.00 and a business class service at a higher rate. It's intended to rival Virgin Atlantic. 

RyanAtlantic is on hold until it can take delivery of 40 to 50 newly-acquired aircraft within a two-year period at opportunistic prices, said O'Leary.

O'Leary mentioned he hopes to avoid the problems that faced Norwegian, which he believes is too small to enjoy economies of scale.

Foreign Exchange 
As things stand now, the United States allows foreign airlines to serve its major cities as part of international agreements that have been around for decades. 

The EU-US Open Skies Agreement allows any airline of the European Union and any airline of the United States to fly between any point in the European Union and any point in the United States. 

Airlines of the United States are also allowed to fly between points in the European Union. Airlines of the European Union are also allowed to fly between the United States and non-EU countries like Switzerland.

Imagine if foreign carriers could offer flights in the United States, competing head-to-head with our domestic airlines. What lessons could U.S. airlines learn from their global peers?

"Foreign airline competition and capital investment in U.S. airlines could quickly improve passenger service, lower fares, result in new start-up airlines, and relieve overcrowding," Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org told USA TODAY in January.

US Airlines Pushing Govt to Reject Open Skies Treaty

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines are planning to urge the U.S. government to re-evaluate its approach towards open skies agreements with other countries, amid increased worry over competition, reported FlightGlobal last Friday.
Sources told Flightglobal that chief executives from the three airlines had scheduled a meeting with senior White House officials, including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, during the week of October 6, but the meeting had been postponed.

Delta, American and United all declined to comment on the meeting when contacted by Flightglobal.  The US Department of Transportation, however, confirmed that the meeting had been rescheduled.

The request to seek a meeting with White House officials by the three U.S. carriers comes as the airlines are growing increasingly annoyed with DOT consumer protection regulations that have been rolled out in recent years, championed by FlyersRights.
Your Letters

(In response to last week's letter subject, that airfares are higher today than decades ago, when factoring in the myriad of fees)

Dear FlyersRights:

We are not talking about services, conveniences, or freedoms in air travel here. Those things are a thing of the past, period. No amount of discussion or Congressional rhetoric is ever going to change that. The reality is that airlines will never capitulate and return to the classic standards of comfort and customer care of the past. The question presented here is value per seat per flyer. And the per mile traveled value cannot be beat by any other means of travel today when time and distance are the major factors.

As we all know, airlines are big business and big business requires a lot of capital to stay in business. Currently, about 1.4 billion people a year travel by air and that number increases every year. This means a lot of people rely on the airlines to get them from point "A" to point "B". This provides major capital for Delta, United, American, Alaskan, KLM, Quantas, and every other airline out there. There is more than enough competition in the industry and flyers are not going to go away any time soon. Most major airlines operate in capitalistic countries and societies with investors and owners that are in business to make money. Right now they're doing just that, making money.

Why do I bring this into the rhetoric here? Because I am talking value per dollar and even with airlines making record profits in some cases, the price you pay to fly is still an unbeatable value. You can never again make comparisons between value and personal service. As long as flyers continue to search the internet and other sources for the cheapest fare available to their desired destination the airlines will continue to have the upper hand on flyers. And in the weak economy we are still in today, flyers will continue to look for those bargains. The proof of this is all the websites that are available to search for those bargain fares.

I wish FlyersRights.com all the best in its endeavors to advocate for flyers and I have supported FlyersRights for several years now. But the entire airline industry has changed greatly in the past several years and I seriously don't see any major reversals in their current operations. As a free market society, unless laws are being broken, all industry, including the airlines, will continue to seek every method of producing revenue. Here again, I don't see any laws making it through Congress that will change the airline industry in any major way. The same goes for the DOT and the FAA. Free market... As American as apple pie.

Economics tell the truth, and the numbers indicate flying is still a good value. The service and customer care may stink at times but there's always the choice of flying first class.

Dear CJK:

You raise a number of interesting points.

First, as to airfares being an "incredible value", there is a widespread public misconception that airfares are lower since 1978 due to deregulation.  Actually, airfares were declining rapidly prior to 1978 under regulation, and some studies show that deregulation retarded the rate of decrease.  See Did Passenger Savings Occur After Airline Deregulation? by David B. Richards, Journal of Transportation Research, Vol. 46, No. 1, (Spr. 2007), pp. 73-93 http://www.trforum.org/journal.

In any case, it is clear that airfares did drop after 9/11 and have soared since 2010.  For example average airfare for international flights increased 23% in one year.  http://www.marketwatch.com/story/airfare-soars-as-carriers-keep-capacity-tight-2010-05-14.
High taxes by EU on transatlantic airfares, now as high as 200% (vs 21% for US domestic flights) are also hurting both the US and EU economies. 

US airlines have had a dramatic recovery.  This is due to several factors:  Consolidation, breaking union contracts and debt elimination mostly through bankruptcies, ancillary fees and restriction of competition.  See IATA Press Release No. 30, June 2, 2014.

The "free market" only works if there is easy entry into a market and controls on monopoly type pricing power as well as abuses through antitrust and consumer protection laws.  This has broken down for air travel.  

Only 4 airlines control 85% of domestic flights, airports and the two international alliances (joint ventures) now have antitrust waivers, and US carriers are protected from foreign competition by Cold War era legislation. 

Airlines are also exempt for all state, local and most federal consumer protection law plus common law torts not involving death or physical injury. 

The state of the airline industry is currently best described as a monopsony with minimal regulation, quite similar to the position of the railroads in the late 1800s when they were the only practical long distance transportation (the term being railroaded was coined to describe their multiple abuses) or cable TV companies today.

If the free market was working, there should be lots of new carriers and an expansion of new flights and routes.  Instead the opposite is happening, and planes are at a record 84% capacity vs an historic 50%.

Second, no one disputes that service has declined dramatically under deregulation. Even longtime CEO of American Airlines Robert Crandell bemoans the fact that US carrier service is now inferior to virtually all foreign carriers and calls it unacceptable.

It is clearly possible for service to improve without higher airfares, but it requires reasonable regulation (see the FlyersRights Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0) to prevent abuses and preserve public safety, comfort and convenience (all things that a FAA certificate to provide public transportation is supposed to ensure) and competition.  

There has never been a safe, stable and affordable public transportation system without regulation, no where & at no time. The mantra that unregulated mass air transportation is best and will handle any problems is a fantasy.  

As for airfares, they should be declining as fuel costs, labor costs and capital costs have all declined since 2009. Instead, profits are up over 300% and stock prices over 100% for US carriers since 2012.     

Paul Hudson, Pres.
Is It Time For Airline Seat Standards?
Christopher Elliott, Special for USA TODAY October 6, 2014

It's not your imagination. Airline seats are shrinking.

A wave of air-rage incidents has exposed the problem like a threadbare economy class seat on an aging puddle jumper.

"Airlines are aggressively reducing seat and passenger space to squeeze more revenue out passengers, despite health and safety being threatened," says Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org, an advocacy group for air travelers.

Actually, the solution is as simple as developing minimum seat comfort standards and enacting common-sense government regulation to enforce them.

Over the years, many carriers have quietly moved the seats closer together, reducing both seat pitch and cushion sizes, and insisting that their customers demanded it. How so? They claim that we only wanted cheap fares and were willing to sacrifice space for it. But they didn't have any compelling numbers to back that assertion.

Truth is, as a consumer advocate, I've never received a request from a passenger to reduce the amount of space on a plane. No one ever asked to be squished into a seat in exchange for a deal.

That must end. One fix is for a pro-consumer U.S. Senator to slip a sentence in the next FAA Reauthorization Bill, asking the Transportation Department to establish minimum seat space standards.

FlyersRights.org is also pushing for legislation that would require the FAA to set seat standards.

Get Your Shirts!

Our semiannual fundraiser starts now! 

We've lots of great giveaways lined up. 

Donate to FlyersRights and keep the cause going.

We've got FlyersRights buttons for donations over $50, and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts for gifts over $100.
Remember, gifts to FlyersRights' 501(c)3 are a tax write-off.

Supplies limited.  

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

                                     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 30, 2014

                        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.

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.


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

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:
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

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                         Kate Hanni, founder 
                        with Paul Hudson, President
Get the best of FlyersRights' articles, links and conversation, 
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

   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.

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.

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