Monday, January 28, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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." 
The 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
Feb. 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. (Photo: A.P.)

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.

In 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.

In 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 breathable air. 

The 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.  

These 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.

The 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.

For more information contact: Aviation Consumer Action Project   800-662-1923

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

Airlines 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."

The 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)

TSA has ended its contract with the manufacturer of a controversial full-body scanner used to screen passengers.
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."

Great FlyersRights Partnerships!   

Flybags - the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. For more info visit

 Napa wine shop benefiting FlyersRights!
Get into the spirit of the new year with a wonderful glass of wine AND support airline travelers everywhere. 

 The Final Word

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