Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pledge Allegiant-Not 

Laissez 'FAA'ire

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dry-Mouth Allegiant Air Passengers Endure Grueling Stranding
Dripping with sweat, racked by nausea, Allegiant Air passengers were stuck for hours in 110-degree Vegas heat on a recent weekend.

They took their minds off the misery and discomfort by breaking into a karaoke version of R. Kelly's famous song "I Believe I can Fly."
Video was captured by a passenger and uploaded to YouTube where it has been viewed over 1.1 million times

The uploader, a 30-year old banker from Phoenix, Ariz, told NBC News she saw one passenger vomit and two passed out on the floor. 

Passengers took turns in groups of three and four fanning elderly passengers on blood pressure medication who complained of nausea. 

She said that the airline only passed out small bags of ice and that the airline didn't serve water until the plane was in the air, because they were told, "it would only delay the flight further."

"At the very least, DOT needs to investigate as well as the FAA and the local District Attorney," said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights. 

"If an airline knowingly herded passengers into a second, no air-conditioned airplane in 100+ degree heat for another two hours, rather than let them wait in the terminal, this could be reckless endangerment, a criminal offense, as well as a violation of aviation safety rules." 

Laissez 'FAA'ire
Safety Takes a Back Seat at the FAA

FAA Flying Blind

FlyersRights attended a recent House Aviation hearing on Boeing's 787 problems titled "Lessons Learned."  

Yet all we learned was the FAA allows Boeing to help write its own safety standards, develop its testing protocol and then perform those tests.

Everything is wonderful, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Deep research, proposed changes, testing... but where is the root cause of the problem?  

Witnesses testifying were Peggy Gilligan, FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety and Mike Sinnett, Chief Engineer for the Boeing 787 Program. 
Boeing still did not announce what the problem was. 

One can test the equipment to the death but it is not going to be safer. Root cause first, fix next, preventive action at last.  Nobody admitted in anything, only slogans that it will be safer because they say so.   
For decades the FAA had used what it calls "designated airworthiness representatives" to certify that planes meet government safety standards. They were experts chosen and supervised by the agency. But in 2004, the agency changed the process of selecting those designees, ruling that aircraft manufacturers could choose their own employees to certify their planes.

This laissez-faire certification system is projected to save the aircraft manufacturers $25 million through 2015. A pittance when compared with Boeing's $80 billion in revenue for 2012.

The former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, James Hall, wrote in the New York Times that "one thing is clear, the FAA and the industry it regulates share a cozy relationship that sometimes takes a front seat to safety."
The aircraft maker had essentially persuaded the FAA to let them certify their own aircraft so they could save money.

This type of conflict of interest contributed to the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner in January and the speed with which the airplane was approved to return to service.

More Than 100 Batteries Failed on 787 Fleet
The first problems with Boeing's lithium-ion batteries emerged in 2006 with a devastating lab fire in Arizona. A single battery was connected to prototype equipment that exploded, burning the whole building down.

More than 100 of Boeing's lithium-ion batteries had to be returned to their Japanese manufacturer, according to a report released by the Seattle Times.

Citing unnamed sources of someone "inside the 787 program with direct knowledge," the Times reported that as many as 150 batteries were sent back to Japan before the Federal Aviation Administration grounded Boeing's troubled plane.

Officials with Boeing declined to mention the overall number of batteries sent back.

Incredibly, Boeing testified that none of its battery tests detected any problems in an April 2013 NTSB hearing.  

An Innovation Too Far? 

Given all this, the FAA's judgement to approve Boeing's plans to fix the battery seems shortsighted and represents a complete failure of government oversight.  

Why was the agency so quick to accommodate Boeing in approving the safety of the airplane, without even knowing the cause of the battery problem?

This calls attention to Boeing's considerable political clout, wielded by legions of lobbyists, fueled by hefty political campaign contributions and by the company's importance as a huge employer and the nation's single largest exporter. Few companies are positioned as well as Boeing to fend off a damaging public investigation. 

If the pilots of Boeing's customers, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, have all recently paused for thought, shouldn't passengers, operators and Congress?

Fix the problem.  Flyersrights feels that Boeing and the government should not be applying short-term 'band-aid' fixes. This was a near-miss event that should be a major wake-up call.  Otherwise, a tragedy is likely around the corner.
The flying public deserves better, from Boeing, the FAA and Congress alike. 
FlyersRights' Partnerships:
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Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, Founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights
Founded by Kate Hanni in
 2007, FlyersRights is funded completely
through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible.
Thank you for your continued support!
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Sunday, June 16, 2013
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TSA Gets The Point
Walking (Off) In Memphis

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Another week, another fee to wrangle more money from travelers.
United just announced new "subscription" services for things that are currently covered by attaining MileagePlus status:
United Airlines has launched subscription options that offer customers access to Economy Plus seating or pre-paid checked baggage charges for a year. 
Travelers may access Economy Plus for a year starting at $499.
United's checked baggage subscription one year, $349. 
"The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round," said Scott Wilson, United's vice president of merchandising and e-commerce. "We are pleased that, as we launch these services, we are able to provide new options for customers to tailor their travel experiences."
That means the annual basic rate to gain what travelers took for granted just a few years ago - seats where your dining tray doesn't press against your knees and baggage check-in that's covered by the cost of your ticket - will now set you back almost $850.   

As with all retail products there are certain "buyer beware" elements to the latest subscription scheme. Listed among the terms and conditions for the Economy Plus subscriptions is a stipulation that "Economy Plus seat requests and specific seat assignments are not guaranteed". So be sure to read all the fine print before you opt to pay nearly $500 to subscribe to a seat that may or may not be available on your next flight.
Oddly, if you have a United credit card you get a free checked bag per flight for $95 per year. You also receive priority boarding (now on par with low & mid-level Premiers) not to mention club access, etc.  All things that are currently "perks" at the Silver and Gold Premier status.  

United appears to be rolling this out not just to generate a one-time revenue source from the cost of the program, but to ensure that flyers will continue to purchase tickets on United. Frequent flyer programs cost nothing to the consumer to join, and the "payback" period is often a long time away. 
But if you plunk down that $350 for the baggage fee or $500 for the extra legroom, then you have created a sunk cost which increases the incentive for you to book all of your flights on United for the rest of the year. 
For the airlines, fees provide billions of reasons continue. Last year, the industry raked in a record $6 billion in airline fees, with United alone collecting $706 million in bag fees, FareCompare notes
Just put pay toilets on the planes and be done with it!

TSA Gets The Point
Our uncut commentary

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights expressed "relief" that TSA reversed course and will not allow knives on airliners.
FlyersRights had filed a legal petition in opposition with the Flight Attendants and other unions, spoke out against it on numerous occasions, and submitted written testimony at an April 11th House Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing.

Hudson noted, "This shows that when air traveler organizations unite and work together, a crazy and dangerous TSA policy like this knife policy, secretly lobbied for by the American Knife & Tool Institute and then promulgated in a surprise announcement by TSA Administrator John Pistole with no stakeholder input, could be and was properly defeated. 

Hopefully, the TSA has learned the lesson that transportation security policies affecting many millions of air travelers need to be fully vetted with all stakeholders, not made just on internal deliberations and secret lobbying by those with special financial interests or insider connections. This is the third time that the TSA has had to reverse a major security policy decision in the past several years."

Walking Off In Memphis
Delta dumps hub, cuts 230 jobs

Despite Delta promising Congress in 2008 that a merger with Northwest would not impact its Memphis hub, thereby securing an immunity from antitrust law, Delta flipped last Tuesday and announced it would close its Memphis operation.

It's the outcome that was feared in small hubs like Memphis, Cincinnati, and Salt Lake City when the wave of airline mergers began five years ago.
Delta flew as many as 240 flights per day out of Memphis in June 2009, including a flight to Amsterdam. 
When it bought Northwest in 2008, Delta executives said repeatedly that no hubs would be closed because of the merger. The possibility of hub closures was a major topic of Congressional hearings into the deal. 
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, blasted Delta's decision. Cohen noted that Delta CEO Richard Anderson told Congress in 2008 that the merger of Delta and Northwest would not impact flights in and out of Memphis and had even hinted at the addition of a Paris flight. "He said that the merger was about addition, not subtraction," Cohen said.

Cohen said in a statement that he has reached out to the Justice Department "to discuss the growing evidence that Delta is violating the promises made to the Department when seeking antitrust immunity for their merger."

Quote of the Week
The last time I felt good on an airplane was when I worked for PanAm and always traveled 1st class (1961).  Since then, every flight has been torture for me!  - Jim H., FlyersRights member.


FlyersRights' Partnerships:
  • Flybag™ - the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you'll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights! Visit    

Kate with FRO LogoFounded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights is funded 
completely through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible.
Thank you for your support!
Freshly Squeezed
Passenger complaints rise as seats get smaller
More flights overbooked  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
An economy class seat can be a chair of torture as carriers look for new ways to pump up profits, either by adding to or reducing the number of seats, increasing legroom or cutting the distance between rows.  
Which airlines are making changes that are not-so-friendly to your knees? 

Southwest Airlines:
In March, Southwest began retrofitting its fleet with a new "Evolve" interior. Each seat is 6 pounds lighter than previous models with thinner cushions. In a blog post on Southwest's website, the airline admits this allows them to increase the number of seats on board from 137 to 143 on some aircraft. 

It claims that seat comfort and space isn't sacrificed, but we've heard reports to the contrary.

CEO Gary Kelly gave a talk in Vegas where he said that about as many people like Evolve as don't, so it's a wash, and the extra seats will bring more revenue.

In April, JetBlue added enhanced legroom seats, dubbed "Even More Space", to its fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft. Conde Nast Traveler reports this has come at the expense of a tighter seat pitch for those seated further back in the coach cabin.

United Airlines:
When selecting new seats for the cabin overhaul of its Airbus fleet, United went with popular European manufacuter Recaro. Slated to begin next year, United's 152 narrow-body Airbus aircraft will be fitted with slimmer seats. The airline also claims seat comfort won't be sacrificed, but the refit will enable an extra row of seats to be added to each aircraft. We're not convinced.

American Airlines:
American's new Boeing 737-800 aircraft has two additional rows of seats more than its other 737-800 configuration. 

Seat pitch has been reduced by one inch. To mitigate this, the seats do not recline. Instead, the seat bottom slides forward while the back slouches within a shell. 

In sum, what does this all mean? That having a top-tier elite status is a saving grace, with its complimentary access to the airline's best seats when flying in coach.

Airline squeeze: 
You wanted the benefits of a fully deregulated industry?
Following our 'Outrage of the Week' story last week, about a FlyersRights member who paid $1,200 for Delta Economy-Comfort, then was squashed by the large passenger next to him, we heard from irate airline customers:

Mainly that airline seats are already too small and personal space is already too cramped. 
Some blamed corporate greed, reminiscing about the days of regulation, when airline tickets were more expensive, but at least there was a bit of fun and dignity when flying.
Really? Let's examine this. In 2011 Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (who worked with Senator Kennedy on airline deregulation in the 1970s) wrote: 
"What does the industry's history tell us? Was this effort worthwhile? Certainly it shows that every major reform brings about new, sometimes unforeseen, problems."
No one foresaw the industry's enormous growth, with the number of air passengers increasing from 207.5 million in 1974 to 721.1 million last year. 
As a result, no one foresaw the extent to which new bottlenecks would develop: a flight-choked Northeast corridor, overcrowded airports, delays, and terrorist risks consequently making air travel increasingly difficult. Nor did anyone foresee the extent to which change might unfairly harm workers in the industry. 
Still, fares have come down. Airline revenue per passenger mile has declined from an inflation-adjusted 33.3 cents in 1974, to 13 cents in the first half of 2010. 
In 1974 the cheapest round-trip New York-Los Angeles flight (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that regulators would allow: $1,442. 
Today one can fly that same route for $268. That is why the number of travelers has gone way up. 
But how many now will vote to go back to the "good old days" of paying high, regulated prices for better service? 
Even among business travelers, who wants to pay full fare?
Spirit(less) Airlines Only U.S. Carrier To Make List Of World's Worst 

A new round-up of the world's worst rated airlines would seem to confirm that Spirit is living up to its public opinion.
The no-frills airline is known for its infurating fees and strict no-refund policy. It prides itself for offering the lowest fares, then charges passengers for everything else.

Need an agent to print out a boarding pass at the airport? That's $10. Want some water? That's $3. Rolling a bag on board? The tag costs $35 from home and $50 at the airport. In all, there are about 70 fees enumerated in dizzying detail on Spirit's Web site for customers to navigate.
"The fee-for-everything technique allows airfares to be advertised as much lower than the overall cost," said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.
While the fees are an annoyance, it is the frequency with which its passengers wind up getting stranded at airports that is its greatest deficiency. Spirit tends to overbook much more often and have more late and canceled flights than other airlines.
Those issues, coupled with Spirit's significantly fewer and consistently full flights mean you are much more likely to wind up stranded at an airport than any other airline. 
And when this happens, don't expect them to find a different flight on another airline for you because they won't. You're on your own.
That's the Spirit!

TSA Chief  
Tells Saudis: 
A Pocket Knife Won't Bring Down a Plane: You Need an IED

Just days after the brutal knife attacks in London and Paris, TSA Administrator John Pistole went to Saudi Arabia to urge that small knives be allowed on US commercial aircraft.

"A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft," says the chief of our Transportation Security Administration.  "An undetected and successfully detonated improvised explosive device will."
FlyersRights has established a new email,, to solicit feedback and ask for your contact info if you would like to get involved, assuming that knives are allowed back on, as TSA's Pistole has indicated.
We believe there is a new wave of terrorism by knife attack, based on the London (soldier butchered with shocking video posted on internet), Paris (soldier stabbed in neck with small knife), China (21 killed by Islamic separatists in area bordering Pakistan) and Texas (14 stabbed by deranged man at a college) all since April. 
Allowing knives back on airliners could result in carnage not seen since 9/11.
FlyersRights' Partnerships:
  •  Flybag™ - the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you'll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights! Visit    
Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, founding member
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights
Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights is funded completely
through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible.
Thank you for your continued support!
Change Of Plan$?
Changing Your Airline Ticket Becomes Overly Costly

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Just in time for summer vacation season, the airlines are jacking up the cost to  change your flight.

Sen. Charles Schumer is slamming the four major airlines,
Delta, American Airlines, U.S. Airways and United, for increasing their ticket-change fees in recent weeks while price competition has vanished due to mergers.

The New York democrat says after United Airlines raised change fees to $200 dollars other carriers have followed.
FlyersRights has been at the forefront of demanding airlines roll back excessive fees.

Just last week we reported airline fees hit a record $6 billion in 2012, and it has not translated into any better airline service.

Citing a "chorus of objections" Congress members wrote "we urge you to keep the rule simple: no knives on planes."
TSA has postponed their proposal to allow passengers to carry knives in carry-on bags after intense pushback from the lawmakers and aviation groups such as
Time to Revisit Cell Phones on Planes?  
iPhone blamed for interference with airliner electronics

Read more here:
Could your iPhone really send an airplane miles off course? At least one pilot thinks so as government regulators weigh the effects of smartphones and tablets being left on during takeoff and landing.
Bloomberg reported last week that an iPhone left on during a regional flight caused enough interference to make compasses go haywire.
According to a NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System report, the 2011 incident claims the small jet experienced a problem while climbing past 9,000 feet, in turn sending the plane "several miles" off course. The crisis was allegedly resolved when a flight attendant asked a passenger seated in the ninth row to turn off the iPhone. 
Judy R., FlyersRights member and former international flight attendant brought our attention to this story and pointed out that hard objects such as these become projectiles if the pilot aborts a take-off 
Not to mention that cramming people in sardine tubes is tough enough already, but adding the cacophony of cell phone and gadget users only multiplies the discomfort by an order of magnitude. 
Your Power in Action! 
Jeff P. wrote to us, fed up with a United flight out of St. Louis. It was late due to maintenance problems according to the ground crews. However the airline claimed weather. 

He expected to get denied lodging by the airline, per the phoney weather excuse.
But then he name-drops FlyersRights:   
I told the gate agent I was emailing flyers rights dot org about the lie. How we knew it was because of maintenance but they said weather. She got on the phone with someone and they updated the screens and emails to reflect maintenance. If you would like I can forward the two consecutive emails with the changed cause of late. 
Outrage of the Week
Ron K. wrote about a recent Delta flight where he paid $1,200 for an Economy-Comfort seat, but endured the opposite of comfort due to a very large passenger sharing half his space.
He wrote to Delta customer service about the ordeal, asking why they have size tests for carry-on luggage but nothing for passengers. Why do they charge extra for luggage over 50 pounds but do nothing for overweight passengers?  
Delta offered only a stock apology and a woefully inadequate 7,500 frequent flyer miles.
Summer Internship and Project Manager position now open in Washington DC office.  Must be a change-the-world wannabe.  Send resume with cover letter to 
FlyersRights' Partnerships:
  •  Flybag™ - the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you'll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights! Visit    
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president
Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, founding member
Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights
 is funded completely  through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible.
Thank you for your continued support!