Monday, June 22, 2009 to the Rescue!

Passengers aboard US Airways Flight #1576 received hotel, taxi and food vouchers thanks to passengers David Anderson and Peter Pimino, who had the presence of mind to use cell phones to call at 1-877-FLYERS-6 (1-877- 359-3776).

Flight #1576 was beset by mechanical troubles immediately upon boarding. Passengers were initially held on the tarmac for 90 minutes due to what they were told was a wiring problem. After returning to the gate for repairs to the wiring (during which passengers were allowed to return to the terminal for 15 minutes), passengers were re-boarded, only to be held on the tarmac for an additional 4 hours for yet another mechanical problem.

While passengers became increasingly restless (some screamed at the crew and actually threatened to open the emergency exits), Anderson and Pimino had the presence of mind to call By now, it was 6:00 PM.

We advised them that, in the event of a mechanical delay, they were entitled to be re-booked immediately to an alternate flight or, in the event no flights are available, to hotel, taxi and food vouchers. We also asked them to use their cell phones to photograph the event; their photo appears above. Thanks to their quick thinking, the flight was immediately taken back to the gate, passengers were allowed re-booking (without a fee), and those who had to stay overnight were given cab fare, a meal and hotel accommodations.

Remember: whenever you’re stuck on the tarmac, call at 1-877-FLYERS-6 (1-877- 359-3776). If your delay is caused by mechanical problems, you have certain rights under the law.

Incidentally, this is one more reason why you should always carry a cell phone aboard an aircraft. You may need to make a vital call, a video or take photos to document your horror story.

Kate Hanni

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Data on Airlines’ On-Time Performance Raises Questions

June 16, 2009



The latest government statistics show that the airlines had a 79
percent on-time record in April, an improvement over the more typical
75 percent rate.

What those figures do not reveal, though, is that just two-thirds of
the flights that take off or land in the United States are counted,
making the recent gain more of an estimate than an accurate measure of
the industry’s overall performance.

The Transportation Department requires only airlines earning more than
1 percent of domestic passenger revenue to report data about flight
delays, cancellations, mishandled bags or other service problems. But
that leaves out roughly 25 percent of all domestic flights, many
operated by regional carriers, as well as about 1.3 million
international flights.

Passenger advocates have been pushing for a more comprehensive and
accurate reporting system, arguing that the reporting requirement was
written when regional carriers operated fewer flights. Even airline
analysts acknowledge that the system is flawed.

“The data is anecdotal at best,” said Michael Boyd, president of the
Boyd Group aviation consulting firm. “The entire reporting system
reflects an airline industry that no longer exists. It’s not a reliable
system. That 1 percent number leaves out a lot of carriers that are an
integral part of the major carriers’ operations.”

Some of the carriers not included in the data are Spirit Airlines,
Virgin America, Midwest Airlines, Colgan Air, Mesaba Aviation (a
subsidiary of Northwest Airlines) and many regional partners of the
larger carriers.

According to the Regional Airline Association, its members operate 52
percent of all domestic flights in the United States, up from 43
percent in 2000. Many fly under names that passengers know as
Continental Connection, Delta Connection, Northwest Airlink, United
Express and US Airways Express.

As the regional carriers’ operations have grown, some have moved into
the group required to report statistics to the Transportation
Department, among them Atlantic Southeast, ExpressJet, Comair, Mesa and
SkyWest. Pinnacle Airlines reports data voluntarily and American Eagle
has been reporting statistics for years.

Nineteen carriers now submit data to the department, versus 10 airlines
in 2002.

“We are considering expanding the reporting,” said David Smallen, a
spokesman for the department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, but
he declined to specify a timetable.

When the department issued its rule in 2002 requiring the carriers to
begin reporting information about the causes of delays, the agency
exempted smaller carriers and code-share partners from the rule, citing
the cost burden. But the text of the rule stated, “The department
intends to revisit, at a later date, the issue of whether to expand the
air carrier universe for on-time reporting.”

At the time the department was considering the rule, the Air Transport
Association, which represents the nation’s largest carriers, submitted
comments urging the department to include smaller airlines in the

The association said that the carriers exempt from the reporting
“contribute a disproportionate, higher number of airplanes to the
congestion mix since these airplanes generally have fewer seats.”

David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said
via e-mail that the group had “no current formal position” on the

Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, said he
believed that adding more carriers to the statistics would not
“materially change the overall numbers.”

“Isn’t the 75 percent, which is now being captured, a big enough
sample?” he asked.

But the airlines point to even small gains in the on-time statistics,
and Congress and government agencies rely on the data to determine how
to address problems like delays.

In fact, adding more regional carriers to the reporting requirement may
significantly affect the statistics, since there is some evidence that
smaller planes may be subject to more or longer delays.

In comments filed with the department as it considered the 2002 rule,
the Regional Airline Association noted that regional carriers were
subject to “a high level of ground delays not experienced by major
carriers,” and aviation experts acknowledge that larger planes tend to
be given higher priority when airport backups occur.

The group FlyersRights has also been pressing the Transportation
Department to more closely monitor the reporting of long tarmac delays,
expand the requirement to include smaller carriers and collect better
data on the causes of delays.

According to the statistics, only 5 percent of all flight delays are
attributed to factors within the airlines’ control, which means that,
for a vast majority of delays, the carriers are not responsible for
accommodating passengers with refunds, hotel vouchers or flights on
other airlines. Most delays are attributed to national aviation system
issues, bad weather or a combination of the two.

But passengers continue to question the official data.

Teresa Chaisson and her daughter were on a Delta flight (operated by
Comair) from Washington Reagan to Kennedy Airport in New York on April
21, and spent more than five hours on the tarmac waiting to take off
before the flight was canceled around 11 p.m.

The official statistics say that the flight was canceled due to weather
— yet every other flight left Reagan airport that day — and that the
plane sat on the tarmac only for a little over three hours, not five.

“I would bet on my two kids’ lives it was definitely not that short a
duration,” Ms. Chaisson said. “There shouldn’t be any chance for
inaccurate reporting.”

Copyright 2009 - New York Times Company

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Meetings of Washington Special Interests and ‘Voluntary’ Inside Fixes
Won’t Cut It This Time,” Says Hanni

– The nation’s largest consumer group
representing airline passengers today demanded “immediate,
comprehensive and enforceable legislation” to protect the 160 million
passengers of the nation’s regional airlines.

The demand came in the wake of shocking revelations at a three-day
National Transportation Safety Board inquiry about shoddy safety
practices by regional carrier Colgan Air, a subsidiary of Pinnacle
Airlines, which operated Continental flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo
on which 50 people died on February 12.  The NTSB hearing revealed
that inexperienced, overworked, poorly-paid and poorly-trained pilots
may have reacted inappropriately when the aircraft stalled after an ice
buildup on the wings.

“Closed-door meetings of Washington special interests and ‘voluntary’
inside fixes won’t cut it this time,” said Executive
Director Kate Hanni.  “We’ve had years of FAA inaction and
closed-door cozy regulation, and it led to calamity in just a few
seconds.  What’s needed now is for Congress to assure the flying
public that the crews of regional carriers are experienced,
well-trained, well-rested – and better paid than if they’d taken a job
managing a Bob Evans restaurant.”

Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator
Randy Babbitt suggested a “voluntary” approach to safety improvements
by the regional carriers, following “closed-door” meetings next week
involving airline industry executives and union officials.

“Airline executives and union bosses aren’t the ones who risk their
lives on these flights every day.  These regional carriers
represent half of all U.S. flights and carry 22% of all passengers
who’ll board a commercial aircraft today.  We have every right to
open, transparent action by our Congress, not handshakes between
industry executives and bureaucrats behind closed doors.” is the largest airline passengers’ rights association
in the U.S. with 25,000 members.  Besides the
website, the organization maintains a toll-free hotline
(1-877-FLYERS-6) which passengers and airline employees can use to
anonymously report breaches of health and safety standards.

FOR BACKGROUND, SEE Washington Post Article

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Flight from Paradise to Hell - Photo Update!

Napa, CA – June 4, 2009: Delta flight 510 from Turks and Caicos bound
for Atlanta on April 10th, 2009 started out like any other flight for
vacationing tourists who had spent a week in the sunny Caribbean
paradise. The passengers, spring breakers, families, and retirees were
tired and a little depressed that their vacations were over, but they
had no idea how their vacation would end.

The flight was scheduled to land at Hartsfield International Airport in
Atlanta at 5:04 pm, but the plane circled for a while due to
thunderstorms below, and was ultimately diverted to Columbia, S.C.
Metropolitan Airport where it landed at 5:44 pm. And there they sat,
and sat, and sat. Five and a half hours later they were finally
permitted to get off the plane - not into the terminal, but into a
cold, stark room with about 20 folding chairs.

The "Cell"

Over 120 passengers, US citizens guarded by armed security personnel
and police, and nowhere for men, women and children to sit but a cold,
concrete floor. “One elderly woman had to be removed from our “cell” by
paramedics,” said one passenger. Listen here: Hotline Call

U.S. citizens, stuck for six hours on the tarmac, then thrown into a
concrete cell for hours and treated like criminals in their own country.

Some eleven hours after they boarded the plane in Turks and Caicos, the
criminals were moved to the terminal area that was wrapped in police
tape, and finally given the chance to purchase food. One family's
bill came to Check Please!$63.85 for seven scrumptious airport hamburgers!

And a couple of hours later Delta bought them pizzas!


Congress is currently considering a new FAA Reauthorization bill that
several consumer groups have urged that passengers’ rights legislation
be included that define specific limits for tarmac delays, and that
would require airlines and airports to develop contingency plans for
such emergencies.

This stranding event is outrageous. Here again we have senior citizens
and children trapped without food and water. And neither the airport
nor the airline had a plan, despite Delta's voluntary "commitments" to
deal effectively with these tarmac strandings. has 25,000 members and is the largest non-profit
airline passengers rights coalition in the U.S. The organization
operates a toll-free hotline 1-877-359-3776 to assist stranded airline
passengers. Please contact Kate Hanni at 707-337-0328 or or