Passengers rushed off a Boeing 787 Dreamliner after it made an emergency landing in western Japan on Jan. 16, 2013.
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner had a nightmare week, topped off with the entire U.S. fleet grounded by the FAA last Friday, over risks of fire from its batteries.
This latest blow
followed an emergency landing of an All Nippon 787 in Japan last
Wednesday caused by a malfunctioning battery, coming after a battery
fire in a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston a week prior.
Costly Lesson on Outsourcing
Much of the blame
stems from the company's outsourcing the design and production of
components to suppliers in foreign countries. Boeing's plan was to save
money. The reality is that it would have been cheaper to keep a lot of
this work in-house, according to a LA Times investigative report.
The company's unions fought
outsourcing. "We've been raising these questions for five years," says
Tom McCarty, the president of the Boeing engineers' union. "How do you
control the project, and how do you justify giving these major pieces of
work to relatively inexperienced suppliers? There's no track record of
being able to do this."
787 has more foreign-made content - 30% - than any other Boeing plane,
according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in
Aerospace, the union representing Boeing engineers. That compares with
just over 5% in the company's workhorse 747 airliner. Boeing
executives admit that the company's aggressive outsourcing put it into
partnerships with suppliers that weren't up to the job.
"We gave work to people
that had never really done this kind of technology before, and then we
didn't provide the oversight that was necessary," Jim Albaugh, the
company's commercial aviation chief, told business students at Seattle
University in January 2011. "In hindsight, we spent a lot more money in
trying to recover than we ever would have spent if we tried to keep many
of the key technologies closer to Boeing. The pendulum swung too far."
In recent years a
number of companies seem to be rethinking the sort of offshoring
practices that Boeing (among others) has pursued so heavily. An
Economist piece this week outlines the trend.
Claims Nixed Over Jet Blue's 11-Hour Plane Hold
NY COURTS TO VICTIMS OF 11-HOUR TARMAC CONFINEMENT: NO RECOVERY ALLOWED EXCEPT FOR PHYSICAL INJURY OR DEATH. IT'S AN AIRLINE "SERVICE".
14, 2007. Passengers were outraged at having to stay aboard JetBlue
Flight 751 as it sat motionless on the tarmac at J.F.K. - for 11 hours.
NEW YORK, Dec 26, 2012 - Three New York courts ruled that passengers held for 7 to 11 hours cannot sue for damages, unless they were physically injured.
This, despite DOT rules prohibiting holding airline passengers more than 3 hours on the tarmac as an unfair and deceptive practice, and require provision of basic sustenance after 2 hours.
the underlying case, Katharine Biscone, a comedy writer, was bound for
Burbank, Calif., from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 14,
2007. Scheduled to depart at 6:45 a.m., the JetBlue plane left the
terminal shortly thereafter. But it stayed on the ground for the next 11
hours. Biscone finally was let off at 5:30 p.m., then waited another
two hours to retrieve baggage.
Biscone v JetBlue Airways Corporation, a midlevel appeal court for
Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island upheld a lower court decision
dismissing the complaint by the plaintiff and about 1,300 others held
for 11 hours, without adequate food, water, bathroom facilities or
court found this was an airline "service" immune from lawsuits, even
though the plaintiff alleged the confinement was based on repeated false
statements motivated by pecuniary gain for the airline and its
employees: i.e. that the flight was about to take off and the
confinement was weather related.
courts accepted Jet Blue's argument, in enacting the Airline
Deregulation Act of 1978, Congress also intended to bar all tort
lawsuits such as false imprisonment, fraud or infliction of emotional
distress where an airline's conduct relates to its operations, unless
the passenger was injured.
DOT Three-Hour Rule was proposed and advocated for by FlyersRights in
2009. Prior to the rule, up to 250,000 passengers were being stranded on the tarmac for over 3 hours, for the airlines' commercial convenience.
Add-Ons Make Shopping For The Lowest Fare Difficult
In the good ol' days,
you could shop online for the lowest airline fare with a few clicks of
the mouse on a variety of ticketing sites. But now the companies that
supply information about flights and fares are complaining that airlines
are refusing to cough up a complete picture when it comes to fees.
That makes it tougher for consumers to find the best deal when all is said and done, so the government is looking into it.
Early boarding, extra leg room, baggage fees and other services muck things up and make it harder for travel agents and ticketing sites like Orbitz and Expedia, which account for almost half of all ticket sales.
"What other industry can
you think of where a person buying a product doesn't know how much it's
going to cost even after he's done at the checkout counter?" said Simon Gros, Chairman of the Travel Technology Association, which represents the global distribution services and online travel industries, tells the Associated Press.
If you can't compare
total fares as easily, you could end up paying a higher price when all
is said and done, depending on which add-on services you walk away with.
The DOT is looking at whether it should require airlines to hand over
that fee information to any entities that sell their tickets. It will make its ruling in May.
Delta Says Too Many People Were Getting Elite Status, Will Make It Harder To Achieve
have spent the last decade trying to get customers to rack up points in
any way possible. But apparently too many people were enjoying the
high-life on Delta, as the airline announced changes that will make it more difficult to achieve elite status in it frequent flier program.
Until now, to reach any
of the four "Medallion" elite levels on Delta's SkyMiles program, you
had to fly a given amount of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or
Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) within a given calendar year.
Today, the carrier added
a new wrinkle to the equation - Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs),
a minimum spend level that must be met before the traveler can be
considered for even the lowly Silver Medallion.
Previously, where it
required either 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs to qualify for the Silver level,
SkyMiles members must now also meet the $2,500 minimum MQD requirement.
Delta writes they are
making these changes "To create an even more exclusive Medallion program
and make it easier for Medallion members to enjoy the top-tier benefits
their loyalty deserves."
qualifying dollars spent is on the fare alone, and excludes the taxes
and tariffs. This is key since on most flights to Europe, taxes are a
majority of ticket prices.
So while that round-trip
ticket from NYC to London will cost you $846, only $204 of that would
count toward your MQD requirement.
Oh, but you can get out
of the whole MQD thing... if you spend a minimum of $25,000 annually
using the Delta Skymiles credit card.
Luckily the changes won't go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014.
TSA Dumps Near-Naked Rapiscan Body Scanners
No more "naked feeling" at the airport.
A TSA agent demonstrates the full-body scanner at Los Angeles International Airport. (Los Angeles Times)
Under tremendous pressure by privacy advocates, members of Congress, health officials and critics, such as FlyersRights who said the X-ray exposure passengers were subject to could be a health risk.
The European Union last year banned the use of full-body scanners at European airports over health concerns.
However, TSA officials said the
agency has canceled the contract with Rapiscan because it had failed to
deliver software to protect the privacy of passengers.
Airline passengers were
offended by the revealing images, including those of children and the
elderly. The Washington- based Electronic Privacy Information Center
sued the agency in July 2010, claiming the scanners violated privacy
laws and has called use of the machines equivalent to a "physically
invasive strip search."
For years we at FlyersRights have been criticizing the fees and surcharges the airlines add to the price of a ticket.
This convoluted puzzle of fees has been added onto base fares for about five years now in the form of checked bags fees, penalty fees for changing itineraries, extra charges for priority boarding, priority coach seating, using frequent flier miles, food, beverages, pillows, blankets and entertainment - you name it.
The airlines have also been taking fees they already have and making them more complex. For example, sliding fees for seat reservations and priority boarding based on the length of the trip. Charges to use frequent flier miles for upgrades for supposedly free trips are also proliferating. The airlines use the term "co-pays" to refer to those fees, which didn't even exist five years ago.
For taxpayers, here is the catch:
There's a 7.5% federal tax on every airline ticket. But the baggage fees are tax-free.
You get the picture.
When the airlines keep ticket prices down by shifting $12.8 billion to baggage fees, they save $964 million in federal taxes they would have owed if they had hiked ticket prices by that amount.
That taxed ticket money goes into a fund that pays for the air transportation system: airports, capital improvements and the operation of the FAA.
However, The Washington Post reports that in nine of the past 11 years, the amount of money flowing into that fund - mostly ticket-tax revenues - has fallen short of projections, prompting Congress to increase general fund contributions to cover the FAA's budget. In both fiscal 2009 and 2010, Congress appropriated an additional amount of almost $1 billion.
To sum up, when airlines raise fees instead of fares, the taxpayers pick up the tab.
Untaxed airline baggage fees. To keep airfares down as fuel costs rise, airlines charge fees - which are federal-tax exempt - for reservation changes, seating, early boarding, meals, entertainment and baggage. Untaxed baggage fees in particular have generated $12.8 billion for airlines since 2007. If taxable, the revenue would help federally fund the air transportation system.
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Government Accountability Office. The Washington Post.
Top Disease-Spreading Airports:
The part of air travel that gives you a cold (or worse) isn't usually the plane ride -- it's the airports!
Most of us don't associate jet bridges and moving walkways with the flu. Instead we worry about the airplanes: cramped, crowded aluminum tubes where a sneeze from across the aisle sets off alarms in our heads.
It turns out that the chances of actually catching something on a plane is low. You'd basically have to be sitting on top of someone to become infected by their germs. According to Aaron Carroll, co-author of Don't Cross Your Eyes... They'll Get Stuck That Way! The airplane manufacturers have gotten air circulation onboard their products down to a science.
Between drawing in fresh air from outside the cabin and passing old air through high-quality filters designed to catch 99.999 percent of germs, the air inside a cabin is replaced some 20 times an hour -- far more often than in office buildings or in houses, which exchange air every 12 and 5 times an hour.
Add to that the fact that each row of an aircraft's air supply is recycled vertically rather than moving forward or backward through the cabin -- meaning airborne germs that survive the filters come back to the same row rather than spreading to other passengers -- and what you get is a system that's pretty hard to beat.
The airports, however, are another story. They're tremendous incubators for disease due to the constant flow of passengers all day, every day. Pathogens are deposited, picked up again, and ferried elsewhere at an incredible rate, without the procedures that keep aircraft interiors clean.
Thank you for your commitment to FlyersRights. Words cannot express the gratitude we feel as we enter our sixth year. As a reminder, FlyersRights Educational Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and your contributions are tax deductible.
An Air Travel Catastrophe in the Making U.S. Airports Face Closure Under Automatic Spending Cuts Tuesday, January 2, 2013
Air Force One splashes water on the runway at Northwest Regional Airport in Arkansas. This airport and many like it face possible closure if budget sequestration forces the Federal Aviation Administration to make severe budget cuts.
As many as 106 U.S. airports could lose air traffic control service and effectively be shut down under automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in March, after a two month delay of the sequester.
Late yesterday the White House and U.S. Senate reached a tentative deal that delays by two months the onset of nearly $1 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 2.
According to a Center for American Progress analysis, here's a list of airports that could be affected with interactive map showing how the entire country will be impacted.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) published a report outlining the impact that sequestration will have on the aviation industry and the U.S. economy.
The NATCA report states that all users of the National Airspace System (NAS), which includes travelers, pilots, airlines, businesses and the military will feel the impact of the cuts via a reduction in airport and air traffic control services, shrinking of the NAS's flight capacity, increased delays, higher costs to airlines and lags in air traffic modernization. Closing Towers Reducing the number of controllers and other staff will mean the FAA may be forced to cut services at some towers and possibly close some towers. Here are some of the busiest airports that could lose air traffic control service:
Savannah/Hilton Head International
Long Island MacArthur
Orlando Sanford International
Palm Springs International
Dane County Regional-Truax Field
Atlantic City International
Egg Harbor Township
Passengers* indicates the total number of passengers boarded at this airport every year.
An employee of security contractor Covenant Aviation Security screens a passenger at SFO. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)
In an era of increasing surveillance and deteriorating privacy, our airports bear little resemblance to the community gathering spaces of our imaginations, where families and friends could see each other off and meet at the gate to hug one another.
On November 25th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turned ten. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is under the massive scope of DHS, and although there have been some improvements (like strengthening cockpit doors), there have been a fair number of missteps.
The government announced a program called CAPS II in 2002 - and eventually all but scrapped it in 2007 - that would have used commercially available data about travelers to determine their risk status. The program lives on, in a limited fashion under the nameSecure Flight, which compares a passenger's name with government-compiled watch lists.
Though Americans' fear of terrorism is at a relative low point compared to times in the Bush-era, 38 percent of the population still thinks a "terrorist attack in the US could be imminent."
This perceived fear of terrorism has driven ever-increasingly authoritarian policies from the Patriot Act and warrantless spying on Americans to the kind of security theater we're now familiar with in our airports.
How great is the actual threat? That's impossible to say for sure, but in 2011, about the same number of Americans were killed by their appliances falling on them as were killed in terrorist attacks.
Of course there's a lot of money to be made by continuing to tell Americans they are under constant threat of terrorism. Military policy analyst Chris Hellman reported in 2011 that although we're often told the Pentagon's budget is around $700 billion, the actual national security budget is closer to $1.2 trillion per year.
As hundreds of thousands of passengers travel home for the holidays, they will have little choice but to consent to these ever-encroaching security measures. In an era of increasing surveillance and eroding privacy.
FCC Makes Changes To Improve Availability Of In-Flight Internet Access
A pilot uses the FlySmart with Airbus app on an Apple iPad. The F.A.A. has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane's avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims.
With pilots approved to use iPads as flight manuals in their cockpits, and the FAA's own studies finding "no evidence saying [wireless] devices can't interfere with a plane, and... no evidence saying that they can," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has asked the FAA to ease up on restrictions against wireless device use on planes.
Mr. Genachowski said the F.A.A. should "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during flights. The letter was first obtained by The Hill.
For more than a decade, the FCC has been approving individual applications from companies to provide in-flight Internet access. But this burdensome process will soon be cut in half thanks to new rules issued by the Commission.
Until now, each company that wished to supply ESAA (Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft) devices, which allow planes to provide a data connection to passengers, had to seek licensing approval from the Commission on an ad hoc basis.
The new rules establish a standard regulatory framework intended to speed up the approval process by 50% by allowing airlines to test systems that meet FCC standards, establish they do not interfere with aircraft systems, and get FAA approval.
Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for your commitment to FlyersRights. As 2012 comes to an end, we hope you will include us in your end-of-the-year giving. FlyersRights Educational Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and your contribution is tax deductible.
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.