Monday, December 28, 2009

KCBS Radio Interview:

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"Christmas Miracle" USA Today Editorial

'Christmas miracle?' DOT promises big fines for long tarmac delays
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Efforts by U.S. airlines to fend off so-called passenger-rights legislation have failed. USA TODAY writes "passenger-rights advocates won a major victory Monday when the Transportation Department announced a rule to let passengers stuck inside stranded planes disembark after three hours. The rule, which will take effect in late April and applies only to domestic flights, prohibits airlines from letting an aircraft remain on an airport tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers. Exceptions are allowed for safety or security, or when air-traffic controllers notify a pilot in command that returning to a passenger terminal would disrupt airport operations."

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the three-hour limit and other new regulations are meant to send an unequivocal message to airlines not to hold passengers hostage on stuck planes," The Associated Press writes. "Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly," Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood says in a press release. Reuters notes "the regulation would take effect just at the start of the spring and summer travel season, the worst for delays."

And the DOT's new rules come with enforcement teeth. AP says "airlines could be fined $27,500 per passenger for each violation of the three-hour limit." Dow Jones Newswires puts that in perspective, writing those fines are "far higher than any penalty so far imposed, and a move that could wipe out industry earnings. Currently, the Transportation Department issues fines for tarmac delays on case- by-case basis."

The Chicago Tribune says "the new measure is tougher than many in the aviation industry expected and represents a significant victory for passenger-rights advocates, analysts said." USA TODAY adds "the rule came as a pleasant surprise to consumer advocates who had grown frustrated that a bill in Congress to help stuck passengers was stalled." Kate Hanni, executive director of, tells USA TODAY: "We have achieved our near-term goals of a mandatory three-hour rule, and it's akin to a Christmas miracle."

On other details regarding the new rule, AP says "the regulations apply to domestic flights. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers. Foreign carriers do not fly between two U.S. cities and are not covered by the rules." Foreign flights may eventually be covered by the regulations as well. "This is the beginning," LaHood is quoted as saying by the Toronto Star. "We think we owe it to passengers to really look out for them."

Editorial: San Francisco Chronicle "Growing Old on the Tarmac"

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Editorial: Growing old on the tarmac

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was a few days after Christmas 2006 that Napa Valley real estate agent Kate Hanni became a political activist. The airlines drove her to it.

Hanni, her husband and sons were flying from San Francisco to Mobile, Ala., by way of Dallas, when bad weather diverted their flight to Austin. Storms happen, but what followed never should have occurred. The Hannis and their fellow American Airline passengers were stuck on the tarmac for nine grueling hours.

In 2007, Hanni's was born.

Less than three years later, Hanni's activism paid off. Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new rules that prohibit U.S. airlines from keeping planes on the tarmac for more than three hours - absent a strong security reason - and require airlines to provide food and potable water - as well as working toilets - after two hours of on-the-ground delay. The new rules go into effect after 120 days.

The Air Transport Association has opposed a tarmac time limit on the grounds that a three-hour deadline will only add to delays and cancellations when stormy weather jams the works. What is more, if passengers have the option to deplane, there could be fights between those who want off the plane, and those who want to keep the plane's place in line.

Should such problems arise, the administration should consider tweaking the rules.

Or it could be that the new rules will improve flying and the airlines' image. Hanni did not become enraged because of unforeseeable or unmanageable problems. She got angry because she was stuck in plane for nine hours for no good reason. Passengers aboard a Continental ExpressJet flight who were rerouted to Rochester, Minn., at midnight one August night, and held on board for six hours, voiced similar complaints - smelly toilets and no food, when they were so close to an airport with restrooms and water fountains.

Hanni may have exaggerated when she referred to her experience as "imprisonment" - but it unquestionably isn't healthy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Early Christmas Present for the Flying Public . . . President Obama gives flying Public the 3 hour rule!

An Early Christmas Present for the Flying Public . . .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All Members!

In case you haven't already heard, on Monday the U. S. Department of Transportation announced strict new rules for airlines, thereby delivering the flying public an early Christmas present! WE GOT OUR RULE PASSED, WRITTEN IN THE STRONGEST LANGUAGE WE COULD HAVE HOPED FOR!

Among other things, the new rules prohibit airlines from making passengers wait on the tarmac for more than three hours, and require that passengers be provided with food, water, functioning lavatories and medical attention. In announcing the new rules, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly."

Well, Mr. LaHood, I couldn't have said it better myself! Airline Passengers having basic rights has now been affirmed in a rule thanks to the leadership at DOT and our President. This is truly something to celebrate!


Why, you ask? Because a rule does not a law make! The DOT rules have the force of law, but are subject to change by any future administration without review by Congress. To be truly protected from the whims of the airlines, we must get Congress to pass a law codifying these rights.

We are well on our way to realizing this goal. Senate Bill 1451, currently making its way through the Senate committees, is the companion to a House bill passed earlier this year, but it has yet to reach the floor for a vote. It is vital that we continue our push to codify this a law, thereby providing permanent protection for the flying public.

Even when this law is passed, we'll continue to fight for you on lots of other important issues. Here are just a few:

 Noting the variety of unbundled fees currently being charged at the point of purchase and the gate (e.g., fees for checked bags that add substantially to the overall ticket price).

 Requiring airlines to report chronically delayed or cancelled flights at the point of purchase.

 Ensuring that the DOT requires that airlines include the new rules in their contract of carriage so that passengers can enforce the rules, and thereby be eligible to receive some penalties that would otherwise go to the government.

 Pushing for a mandated advisory committee to oversee the implementation of the law, and requiring that the public be represented on this committee by at least one member of a non-profit airline passengers rights group.

Please Remember Us at Year-End Planning Time!

We continue to need your help to finish this important work.

Please keep us in mind when making your year-end donations. While our IRS 501(c)(4) status means your contribution is not tax deductible (because it permits us to use funds in lobbying activities that are so critical to effecting law changes), your contributions keep us going. Without your contributions, our efforts cannot continue.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Kate Hanni
P.O Box 4022, Napa, CA 94559
(877) 359-3776 (toll-free)

Editorial New York Times: Deplane, Deplane!


December 24, 2009
Deplane, Deplane
Years before the era of tarmac strandings, of airline passengers trapped in metal tubes without food or working toilets, waiting for hours in filth and foul air and frustration for a departure time that might or might not come, the writer Ian Frazier imagined a commercial flight piloted by Samuel Beckett.

“The time of the dark journey of our existence is not revealed,” says Captain Beckett, on a trip from nothingness to empty bleak eternal nothingness, via O’Hare. “When we deplane, I’ll weep for happiness.”

Mr. Frazier was being funny. But time has greatly blurred the distinction between Beckett’s fictional void and the real-life runways on which airlines imprison tens of thousands of passengers a year, neither traveling nor not traveling, unable to escape. This happens when an airline refuses to return a delayed plane to the terminal, lest it lose its place in the takeoff line.

On Monday, the Obama administration imposed a solution that Congress has only talked about. It declared that customer torture cannot be a part of an airline’s business plan. After two hours, it said, give the poor souls food and water. After three hours, let them off the plane. Stop cramming your schedules with too many flights that will never be on time. The administration, speaking in the language airlines understand, mandated stiff cash fines for violators: $27,500 per passenger.

The decisive action by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood punctures the absurdist fiction offered by the airlines — that self-policing and consumer complaints are power enough to get them to act decently and sensibly, and that when long delays occur, it’s best for suffering passengers and crew to pull together to help the bottom line. Predictably, the airlines responded by warning, or threatening, that the new rules will only create more delays.

The flying public has learned to tolerate a lot of discomfort and inconvenience in return for lower fares and higher security. As it should. But when indignity turns to horror — as it did in August for the passengers stuck overnight on a runway in Rochester, Minn., as food and water ran out and toilets overflowed, with the terminal only yards away — some basic protections have to apply.

Having enough pretzels and bottled water, clean toilets and rational schedules — and being willing to let passengers off the plane when the wait grows absurd — should not be beyond the capabilities of even a marginally competent airline, even in straitened times. Perhaps the belief in corporate progress is a vain illusion, but we are glad that the Obama administration is clinging to it.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 Hour Rule is a Christmas Reality!

December 21, 2009
Kate Hanni
(707) 337-0328

For Immediate Release

Airline Passengers Nationwide Get Early Holiday Gift: DOT to Force Airlines to Deplane Stranded Passengers

Department of Transportation to Impose Limit of Three Hours on the Tarmac for all Domestic Flights

Napa, CA (December 21, 2009) –, the nation’s foremost airline passenger advocacy group, is thrilled by today’s decision by the Department of Transportation that all airlines operating in the United States will now be forced to deplane passengers if a tarmac delay extends beyond three hours.

Kate Hanni,’s president and founder, issued this statement:

“This is indeed a wonderful holiday gift and a major victory for any airline passenger who has ever been subjected to an unnecessary tarmac delay and has endured endless hours without food, water or adequate toilet facilities. has fought for legislation in Congress to limit these delays, yet the bill has languished in the Senate despite bipartisan support. We applaud the Obama Administration and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for stepping up to the plate and telling the airline industry, and Congress, that ‘enough is enough’.” was formed in 2007 by several passengers who were stranded for nine hours on the tarmac in Austin, Texas. The organization advocates for passengers’ rights, including passage of the Passenger’s Bill of Rights currently being debated in Congress. The organization currently has 27,000 members nationwide. For more information, visit or call the hotline at 1-877-FLYERS6.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Airline Passengers Rights "Up in the Air"

For Immediate Release Date: 11-20-2009
Contact: Kate Hanni Phone # 707-337-0328

Airline Passengers Rights Still "Up In The Air"
Senate Finance Committee, lead by Max Baucus, gives
airline passengers lump of coal for the holidays

Napa, CA-Today President Kate Hanni called on the Senate Finance Committee, and in particular Chair Max Baucus, to stop stalling and pass S1451, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization. This bill would grant airline passengers a long-awaited Passenger’s Bill of Rights, which enjoys bipartisan support in the United States Senate.

Over the past week, two airplanes were stuck on the tarmac at JFK Airport in New York and according to FoxNews, a similar 4-hour lockup was experienced by travelers at Reagan National Airport yesterday. In the former case, a pregnant woman, Nikki Spier, spent 4.5 hours stuck on an immobile Delta Flight; the flight crew told her husband, who was concerned about his wife’s health, that she could only exit the aircraft if there were a “medical emergency.” After spending 287 minutes on the stationery aircraft, Nikki was so ill she couldn’t go to work the next day.

Hanni called this “outrageous,” adding, that, “we were promised by Chairman Baucus that the FAA reauthorization would be passed by the December 31st deadline, yet this important legislation has once again been ignored with its 8th extension now pushing the deadline back to March 31st. It seems passengers aren’t the only ones stuck on a tarmac—so are their rights.”

Not only would this bill require passengers be provided food, water, and hygienic toilets during delays now be limited to 3 hours in length, but Hanni pointed out that it’s also a jobs bill, making it even more vital to pass during these troubled economic times. In fact, the legislation could create as many as 288,000 new jobs, depending upon the funding level approved. This may be why 35 Senators sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee in November, imploring its members to mark up the FAA Bill and move it to the Senate floor.

With delays likely to mount during the busy holiday season, the best gift Senator Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee could give to those already victimized by long waits and cancelled flights, as well as the 27,000 members of and the traveling public, would be to take up FAA reauthorization immediately and pass it in the name of the American public.