Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FAA Bill Must Pass 9-13-11

FAA Bill Must Pass

Ten Years After 9/11, TSA Doubts Remain

Spirit Charges to Print Boarding Pass

Beware Multi-Airline Trips

Readers Comment on Boarding Plan

Invitation to Activism

FAA Bill Must Pass

After years of fence-straddling, Congress is still unmoved on the FAA Air TransportationModernization and Safety Improvement Act, popularly known as the FAA Reauthorization Bill. The President recently asked Congress to pass yet another extension of the bill-the 22nd such extension. FlyersRights believes that the time for extensions has long past. Congress must pass the FAA Reauthorization Bill this year, and the bill must contain thekey airline passenger protections for which we've fought for so long.

Capitol DomeWe caught a glimpse of the FAA Bill's economic impact last July, when Congress failed to act. Over 4,000 FAA workers were laid off, hundreds of airport construction projects were stopped cold, and tens of thousands of construction workers were suddenly without work. The ripple effect on construction suppliers was not much discussed, but was certainly significant. FAA certification of new aeronautical technologies of all kinds also came to a halt.

The true economic impact of commercial aviation on the U.S. economy dwarfs those effects. The Air Transport Association published their estimate of that impact in 2009, producing the following table.

Economic Impact of Commercial Aviation on the U.S. Economy (2006-2009)

Economic Activity/Output (annual)

$1.2-$1.3 trillion

Personal Earnings (annual)

$370-$4-05 billion

Share of GDP


Job Impact

9.7-10.5 million

For several years, through several sessions, our Congress has been controlling of this massive economic engine with stop-gap extensions. The FAA finds it impossible to make long-range plans, because they literally don't know what the future holds over the next three months. Businesses of all kinds must build in considerations of the uncertainty and doubt generated by lack of a stable, long-term policy. Long-needed airline passenger protections, championed by our allies in both the Senate and House, go unimplemented.

We remain the strongest and most consistent consumer voice in this fight, and we will maintain our pressure on Congress to send the bill to the President's desk, and to send it with airline passenger protections intact. We need your help to take this fight on to victory.

Ten Years After 9/11, TSA Doubts Remain

A decade after this century's "Day of Infamy," FlyersRights still questions our government's efforts to provide real air travel security. Like all other Americans, we want our travel to be safe. However, we demand that security measures imposed upon us be effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently-applied.

Are we getting what we need? Chicago Tribune reporter Jon Hilkevitch recently took aTSA Patdownhard look at security issues and the government's attempts to address them since 9/11. In his September 6th article, Hilkevitch notes that travel hassles remain, with doubtful assurances of real security. Many Americans (FlyersRights members especially) are dissatisfied and skeptical of what he calls "silly and ineffective security measures designed to obscure glaring weaknesses in a well-funded system that has had 10 years to get it right."

We pad, barefoot, through security lines, shove our personal belongings into the maw of an X-ray machine, face the choice of standing in a machine that irradiates us while conducting a strip search or submitting to a groping body search, and then spend more time getting reorganized enough to make it to the gate. Yet we aren't actually contributing to more secure air travel-we're just participating in an endless game of Security Theater.

There are signs of progress, as the TSA explores better ways to secure our travel, but pilot programs and research are not enough. FlyersRights will continue to speak for you until sanity returns to air security. Help us by supporting our passenger rights advocacy effortsand our ongoing programs to educate the American public and government agencies on these issues.

Spirit Charges to Print Boarding Pass

Spirit Airlines, continuously the yardstick of how little an airline cares about their passengers, has, once again, astonished us. Just as it seemed all extra fee ideas had been exhausted, Spirit goes beyond. Effective November 1st, Spirit is going to charge five bucks to print a boarding pass at the airport.

Spirit Airlines logoThe throng of Spirit charges is astonishing. Take a few minutes to review their Our Optional Fees page. They are actually still charging for carry-on bags, long after the other airlines rejected that as too far over the top. Spirit, apparently, disagrees, and yet they're still booking passengers.

Are you among those passengers? If so, why? Please let us know atopinion@flyersrights.org, and we'll publish your reasons in a future article.

FlyersRights is your voice against the proliferation of airline fees. New DOT rules at least require airlines to publish all fees for their optional services, and will mandate publication of all fees and taxes as part of the fare beginning next January. We will work with DOT and our congressional allies to provide more protections for air travelers.

Beware Multi-Airline Trips

FlyersRights member Georgiann was recently victimized by a combination of Hurricane Irene and booking a trip that involved two carriers. She used an online travel service to find a good price on a trip and purchased two tickets. The itinerary involved going out on one airline and returning on another. Many of us have taken that option for reasons of price or schedule.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene began its march up the east coast, and Georgiann realized that her trip was just not going to happen. She cancelled the trip with her outbound airline and assumed that the trip was cancelled.

Here's the thing. If you book a trip using an airline's site, you will be booking a single itinerary, even if you choose a different airline for your return. On the other hand, If you book via an online travel site, the odds are that you are booking two separate itineraries. Airline 1 and Airline 2 have no connection and do not communicate with each other. So, when Georgiann cancelled the outbound leg, Airline 2 (American) had no idea that she would not show up for the return. See the problem?

Georgiann turned to our 24/7 Hotline for help. Dr. Joel Smiler, our Hotline Director, tookAA Logoownership of her issue and put her in touch with our contact at American Airlines, their Manager, Customer Relations. He provided Georgiann with an e-voucher for one of the tickets, and she was working with him at press time to get credit for the second ticket.

The take away is clear-if you use an online travel site to book separate airlines for your out and back, the out and backs are most likely two separate itineraries, and you must deal with them as such.

Please help us maintain our free, 24/7 Hotline service for you by contributing to our Flyers Rights Education Fund. Remember, your contributions to the Fund are tax-deductible!

Facebookers can also support Flyers Rights Education Fund by signing on to our Cause Page. It provides you with many painless but effective ways to support the cause of airline passenger rights.

Readers Comment on Boarding Plan

Last week we published Fermilab astrophysicist Jason Steffen's "optimum boarding plan" and asked for your comments. As always, we received a variety of thoughtful and interesting comments. In a nutshell, here's how members felt about the program's chance of working:

Boarding Plan Graph

Doubts about the plan centered on a common set of very real concerns.

  • What about groups and families? Mom and her two kids have adjacent seats-do we force the 5-year-old to board first for her window seat, leaving mom and the 3-year-old at the gate?
  • The plan relies on facts not in evidence-that everyone will be courteous, considerate, and compliant. Our members are experienced air travelers, and many viewed the likely experience as being akin to herding cats.

Many frequent flyers view their perks as, at least, some small compensation for their all-too-frequent nightmare. How do they fit into this plan?

Some members responded with creative alternatives, such as this from FlyersRights member Nancy N:

Start charging for carry-on luggage. Stop charging for checking bags.
Compromise: No charge for first 2 checked bags. No charge for briefcases, laptops, ladies' handbags plus 1 other small bag hand-carried on.
Option: Charge for use of overhead bins. Compromise: Overhead bins free for coats and 1 small bag.

The consensus is that the plan, while academically sound, would probably fail in the real world.

Remember, for the very latest in airline passenger rights news, Facebook users can "like" the FlyersRights Fan Page. Also, please check in on our Flyers Rights Education Fund Cause Page.

Invitation to Activism

We are all activists-all 33,000+ of us. FlyersRights is honored by your support as we speak for you in the halls of government. Perhaps some of you are considering other ways to give back to your communities. Here's a possibility we'd like you to consider.

This week is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Throughout the country, many cities and counties support adult education schools and literacy programs. Literacy programs, in particular, offer an opportunity for you to make a real difference in the lives of others and in the well-being of your community.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video, and then search for adult literacy programs in your area. Most are supported by library systems.

CA Adult Literacy Logo

For the very latest in airline passenger rights news, Facebook users can "like" theFlyersRights Fan Page. Also, please check in on our Flyers Rights Education Fund Cause Page. Twitter fans can also follow us on Twitter