Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Turbulence for Boeing's Nightmare Dreamliner 787
by Paul Hudson

In the 90 days that Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner has been back in the skies[1], the aircraft has had flights canceled or been forced to make emergency landings at least seven different times because of warning failures and overheating.[2]  Just last month, a parked Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner in London caught fire from a still undetermined electrical cause[3], and since last Thursday, two more 787 incidents were reported.

The Dreamliner has been a nightmare for Boeing since its introduction, mostly because of its choice of lighter lithium-ion batteries, the same kind that power your cell phone and laptop. Until now, they have not been used in large-scale industrial applications.

At a recent hearing of the House Aviation subcommittee, Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents the Washington state facility where the Dreamliner is assembled, said Boeing had "pushed the envelope" with the Dreamliner[4].

That's putting it mildly.

In just one year[5] and with only 50 Dreamliners in use, between 100 to 150 of the Dreamliner's batteries failed and were returned to their Japanese manufacturer as defective, The Seattle Times has reported[6]

That's in addition to the two highly-publicized Dreamliner battery fires over 10 days in January, which led the FAA to ground the entire Dreamliner fleet -- the first time it had done so for a large commercial aircraft since 1979. [7]  

At the time, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood assured passengers that the Dreamliner would not return to the skies "until we're 1,000% sure they are safe to fly[8]."

It took Washington less than 120 days to reach LaHood's Biblical level of certitude.

Washington based its decision on an engineering review that was mostly performed by Boeing itself. In the Orwellian language of Washington, the FAA calls the process "self-certification," obscuring the dangerously close relationship between Boeing and the FAA.

The FAA cleared the Dreamliner for takeoff without completing its own top-to-bottom review of the aircraft's design, and even before the National Transportation Safety Board was able to find out what caused the battery fires in the first place.

Meanwhile, an FAA blue-ribbon panel of industry experts has issued new safety standards for lithium-ion batteries in commercial aircraft, but they won't be applied to the Dreamliner.  The government's aviation safety chief, Peggy Gilligan, explained to the subcommittee that "it's very difficult to go back and cause an existing product to be retested in accordance with some new standard. [9]"

Boeing's persistent problems with its lithium-ion batteries have caused its European competitor, Airbus, to announce that it will reject their use altogether for its new counterpart, the A350[10]

Concerned Japanese pilots, citing 30 separate safety concerns with the Dreamliner's batteries, electrical and warning systems, have appealed to Boeing to build an additional cockpit warning to give pilots more substantive alerts if the batteries begin to overheat [11]. Those concerns too, have fallen on deaf ears.

Instead, Boeing's "fix" consists of additional insulation, a steel box to contain whatever fires might break out, and a system to vent the fumes. 

This, as Aviation subcommittee chair Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) assured passengers, was the result of "more than 200,000 engineering hours" [12] and testing that the FAA's Gilligan repeatedly called "robust." [13]

The Aviation subcommittee, flush with Boeing campaign cash, didn't hear about the 100 battery failures or the repeated Dreamliner diversions, cancellations, and emergency landings. 

Neither did it listen to flight crews, passenger groups or independent battery experts like Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory professor Elton Cairns, who says he is "shocked" by Boeing's use of the batteries; according to Dr. Cairns, the cells are "crammed too closely together and feature an internal chemistry that's far too volatile."[14]

In May, FlyersRights.org and the Aviation Consumer Action Project formally petitioned the FAA to at least limit Boeing 787 flights until its safety problems are resolved,[15] and considering the alarming number of safety incidents, the FAA should wait no longer.

If Boeing wants to protect passengers -- not to mention its reputation as the world leader in aviation, it should replace the fire-prone, Japanese-made lithium-ion batteries before tragedy strikes.


[1] The first commercial Boeing 787 flight after the grounding occurred on April 27, 2013http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2315725/Boeing-787-flies-Dreamliner-jet-returns-air-time-safety-scare.html

[2] May 4, 2013 - All Nippon Airways - electrical distribution panel overheated during test flighthttp://www.cnn.com/2013/05/17/travel/dreamliner-setback/index.html;
June 10 - ANA Fukoka-to-Tokyo flight cancelled after instruments showed left engine not functioning properlyhttp://news.sky.com/story/1102561/new-glitch-hits-boeing-787-dreamliners;
June 11 - Japan Airlines flight diverted because of a de-icing problem;
June 12 - All Nippon Airways flight canceled when engine failed to start; June 18 - Denver-to-Tokyo flight diverted to Seattle because of an oil filter indicator light; http://abcnews.go.com/Business/boeing-stock-falls-boeing-787-dreamliner-catches-fire/story?id=19651000#.UeRGz5UwP0A
June 20 - United London-to-Houston flight diverted to Newark because an indicator signaled low oilhttp://www.cnn.com/2013/06/23/travel/dreamliner-diverted
June 23 - United Houston-to-Denver flight forced to return due to false reading in the brake indicator lighthttp://abcnews.go.com/Business/dreamliner-hiccups-dampening-boeings-business/story?id=19472488#.UeRJkJUwP0A;
July 18, 2013 - Japan Air Lines Boston-to-Tokyo flight forced to return due to a problem with the fuel pump indicator, http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/07/fuel_pump_issue_sends_dreamliner_back_to_logan
[5] The first long-haul commercial flight of the 787 was on 1/21/12 "ANA 787 connection website"Ana.co.jp. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
[13]http://transportation.house.gov/hearing/lessons-learned-boeing-787-incidents, video testimony of Peggy Gilligan, multiple references

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You've Got Questions, 
We've Got Answers

FlyersRights Member Feedback Special

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This week's newsletter is comprised of mailbag responses to some of the comments FlyersRights has received over the past several months.
We've chosen ones that are most salient and Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president, has drafted responses.  Only initials are used for the letter-writer's names and we kept them short to cover as much as possible.   

I was struck by the line "There are many problems with assuming the brace position as described in safety materials in the seat pocket.
Primarily that it is impossible when the seat ahead is too close.  

With the steadily shrinking distance between seats to squeeze in more passengers, the average sized person cannot brace themselves."  I remembered thinking that same thing!  See below for a letter I wrote back in 2011.

Keep up the good work!  I'll keep supporting you!

"TO: Federal Aviation Administration:
On a recent international flight I watched the pre-flight safety video with some amusement and annoyance.  In particular, the video instructs passengers that in the event of an emergency landing we are to lean forward in our seats and place our hands behind our heads - the so-called "crash position." 

I cannot imagine how few people would be able to perform that move, given limitations on their flexibility, but I am annoyed that in economy class it is impossible for me to even begin to lean forward without hitting the seat in front of me.  And I am only 5'7". 

Surely there is an alternative that would be reasonable to propose to those of us in the back of the plane or those who are less limber so that we, too, might have a better chance of surviving a crash?"
Paul's response: 
The idea of a classic brace position is to prevent whiplash or back or head injury by bending forward.  With seats close together the best that can be done to brace is to place your head cradled in your arms  on the seat back in front of you as some safety guides show. 

The recent Asiana crash resulted in many serious spinal injuries. The FAA and airliner manufacturers need to consider using emergency shoulder straps and perhaps air bags. Such devices have been effective in greatly reducing racecar driver injuries and have saved many lives in high G auto crashes.   

Regarding the battery deal with the Japaneseis that deal contrary to US law? 

US companies are bound by US law, even outside of the US.
That was emphasized to me by the US company I was a sales rep for in an Asian country, I was told repeatedly by the US company that I could not give any bribe to induce purchase of the product.
P. S.

Paul's response:
The U.S. law generally does not prohibit quid pro quo arrangements where a country buys more airplanes in part due to giving a larger share of the work to its businesses.  
Boeing, in the view of many, unwisely outsourced most of the 787 Dreamliner work to get a marketing  edge, save costs and avoid U.S. unions.  However, the resulting complications caused serious delays, quality control problems, and cost overruns. And by sharing so much know how and trade secrets with foreign firms, Boeing may have assured that the next generation of airliners will be made in Japan and China. 
The focus on the golden age of flight is quite hypocritical.  Air travel in those days was very expensive. 

You push for rock bottom fares while also bemoaning the lack of space, fancy meals and other services.  You can't have it both ways.  If people going to choose flights only on the basis of cost, then they have to expect the airlines to continue to reduce space and service to win in that environment. If flyers really believe in more space and better service, they have to support those airlines that provide those with their travel dollars.
V. R.

Paul's response:
Air fares declined 50% in the past 30 years since the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, but have increased rapidly since 2009, especially when fees are included. 

At the same time, space allocated to each passenger has shrunk to the point that safety as well as comfort may be compromised.  We have noted  that 1) FAA should consider regulations to ensure minimum seat and space standards, and 2) have raised the issue of whether fairness dictates there be limits on fees (such as for security) paid by economy class passengers being used to subsidize higher levels of service for first class travelers.  

Many if not most first class passengers now do not pay the listed air fare, but are there because of  upgrades under frequent fliers programs.  In the "golden age"  there were no such programs.  Air fares were higher in part because most travelers received what we would now would view as near first class accommodation and service.  Frequent flier programs were introduced by American Airlines in the 1980s to prevent business travelers (whose air fares were paid for by their employer) from migrating to low fare airlines, by providing the employee traveler with rewards that could be used personally.  They are now part of the business model of all airlines.

As a single woman, I would like to tell your reader
(in June 25 2013 newsletter) 
that all the things she is complaining about have happened to me..... missing a connecting flight

I just don't understand why boarding early is so important to her.
I am sure her baby would have been crying when or after they they boarded early.

Paul's response:
Good question, and there is no perfect answer.  As a father of 4, grandfather to 7 and frequent solo traveler, in my opinion the main thing about traveling with young children or babies is that it's stressful and complicated with strollers, special seats, diaper bags, etc. as well as not to mention the crying, fighting and sometimes misbehaving.  It is probably best for all concerned to have families with young children board first and if possible exit last. 

Requiring families with small children to pay extra to sit with their children as some airlines now do presents other problems that are the subject of pending rules by Senator Charles Schumer.  

Would you please explain to me HOW THE AIRLINES CONTINUE TO GET AWAY WITH GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF HUMAN HEALTH AND SAFETY!!!  How many more stories are we going to read about stranded passengers being deprived of any combination of no drinking water, no food, non-working toilets, etc., to the point of passengers becoming ill.  WHAT THE HECK!!!

Paul's response:
As most passengers know, FlyersRights.org successfully advocated for the 3-Hour Rule making it illegal since April 2010 for airlines to hold domestic passengers on the tarmac for more than 3 hours and requiring they provide food, water, bathroom facilities and also proper temperature and air after 2 hours. 

Yet there are still incidents about once a week. Unless the DOT cracks down hard, with high fines especially for repeat offenders, tarmac confinements that use to victimize about 200,000 passengers annually will creep back.  

In a recent meeting with the head of DOT aviation rule enforcement, FlyersRights.org advocated for higher fines with at least half going to compensate passengers and faster investigations which are now taking 1- 3 years.
How do you feel about a recliner disable button on the back of every seat?  
Paul's response: 
Perhaps a slow button but a no-recline button could cause lots of fights.

Here's a dirty trick ... I used to regularly fly Airtran's non-stop flight between ROC and TPA in Business class.  Recently Southwest Airlines took over Airtran.  When I went to the Airtran web site, I was redirected to Southwest.  However, Southwest was still showing that same ROC-TPA non-stop flight along with a set of fares ranging from $198 to $463, the latter called "Business Select", at just $20 more than what Airtran had been charging.   So that's what I paid for.
Imagine my surprise when I got on the plane and discovered that Business class had vanished and it was just Steerage class from row 1 to infinity.  When I complained, I was told that it wasn't Business class, it was "Business Select".  Well the last time I checked, "select" meant "choose" or "choice", not non-existent.  When I called Customer Relations, their whole attitude was basically, "tough luck pal".  Paying double the going rate just for "priority" boarding is absurd.  And I wasn't even the first on the plane, despite a big "A01" on my boarding pass, as nine other people got on ahead of me.
This sort of deceptive advertising is sleazy and fraudulent.  I think any reasonable person would assume that a fare called "Business Select" with a premium price, means Business class.  Needless to say, my first trip on Southwest was also my last. 

Paul's response:
The term Business Select is defined by Southwest Airlines on its web site as consisting of priority boarding, a drink coupon, and some extra frequent flyer points for about $24 more than the Anytime fare, and considerably higher than the Web only fare of  about $226.  
The term does appear deceptive or at least confusing with the term Business Class and should probably be changed to something like Priority Boarding Plus.   You can file a complaint with the DOT for deceptive advertising which if found in your favor should result in a refund and possibly a fine against the airline with an order to change the term.

This example also shows how airline mergers reduce service, particularly  to smaller cities like Rochester which now has only Southwest nonstop service to Tampa.  Southwest eliminated competing AirTran flight from about five medium size cities after the 2011 acquisition of AirTran. 

On recent Air France FLT to Paris I encountered the most uncomfortable seats...by arrival I had severe back issues that ruined by entire vacation. Worse on return FLT.  Have been under chiro-practic care now for 6 weeks. Next FLT I take ill bring a cushion to sit upon.

I'm a big guy. I'm sorry, that's the way it is. But I can't be blamed for the seat design of most airlines... that they were designed for a 10 year old refugee from Europe after WWII. 

Face it guys, whether I'm big or not, there is no such animal as a comfortable seat in coach. You can't put lipstick on a pig.
Paul's response:
All good reasons for rulemaking and a public comment period before airlines are permitted to reduce seat size, while average passenger size, age and infirmities increase. 


Paul's response:
How about 100 to 150 battery replacements in 2012, two fires in January and another in June, mass grounding by FAA order of the entire 787 fleet for four months, seven (7) emergency landings since April, opinions of a half dozen battery experts, and FAA admission of near total delegation of its safety authority to Boeing?  

I can understand the concern over lithium batteries and the political pressure necessary on Boeing. Yet, what I find troubling is that Airbus has far more safety related issues with almost every aircraft type they have manufactured.

Why aren't we pressuring Congress on those issues as well, or are we?

As someone who travels internationally extensively, I try to avoid flying on Airbus airplanes. I have been on the A380 three times (Singapore, Quantis and Emirates) and each time they returned to the gate with mechanical issues and ultimately cancelled the flights. An aircraft that has been plagued with issues. A significant number of Airbus have also had to go through extensive examination due to early signs of upper wing corrosion - due to a faulty chemical used in the paint. I could go on and on.
Paul's response:
These are good points. We got involved with the 787 safety after alarms sounded by battery experts, coupled with incidents cited above.  If we receive reports of extraordinary Airbus safety incidents and/or expert concerns, you can be sure FlyersRights.org would sound the alarm on the A380 or any other airliner.
Sorry, I strongly disagree with your stance on knives. The 9/11 box-cutter attacks were successful only because they allowed
the hijackers to get into the cockpit. The TSA ban on 
knives is typical of their reactive approach to security
rather than proactive. 

What stopped the hijackings was not a ban on tiny little
pocket knives, it was the Ft. Knox bank vault doors they
put on airplane cockpits.

Would-be hijackers aren't interested in killing one flight
attendant, they want to take over the plane. Once they
realized this wasn't going to be possible anymore, they
shifted to trying to sneak bombs on planes. That is the 
current threat, not an armed takeover.
This hysteria over knives is ridiculous. Every plane has
a fire ax onboard that could be used to create a lot more
mayhem than a pocket knife. For that matter, planes are
loaded with all sorts of common objects a creative individual
could use to kill someone, from klonking them on the head
with a fire extinguisher to strangling them with an oxygen
mask tube. There is absolutely no rational reason not to allow 
small knives.
Yet another reason why I've been boycotting commercial
airline travel for years now. I'll stick to flying my own plane.
Paul's response:
These arguments were considered by the TSA but the overwhelming majority
of the public, flight crew members, and even TSA screeners and air marshals
strongly felt knives should not be allowed back on airliners; the TSA ultimately agreed.

Terrorists, the knife lobby and a minority of passengers were no doubt disappointed.

By flying only in your own plane you are of course avoiding nearly all security hassles and dangers, but this is not something most air travelers can or want to do.

We did not oppose lifting the ban on sports equipment like hockey sticks and have long advocated for easy return of most confiscated property at TSA screening stations with self mailers.
Charging extra for baggage and water? Insufficient hydration is one contributing cause of DVT. DVT can be fatal, are the airlines looking forward to more lawsuits?
The price an airline quotes from point A to point B should be complete to the penny and inclusive of everything involved.
If the airlines are allowed to continue the path they're on they will become more bold. Maybe the airlines will charge extra fees to park the plane, refuel the plane, unload and reload the plane and a fee for communicating with air traffic control.
Maybe the airlines will start charging extra for human pilots, preferring to use drones. 
Paul's response: 
FlyersRights is urging the DOT to define air fare to include all basic services necessary for safe and comfortable air travel and to prohibit extra fees that are unfair, exorbitant, hidden or deceptive. 
Examples include excessive baggage, change, and seat placement fees.  As reported earlier, Spirit Airlines now has 74 extra fees and the airlines are in a race to add and jack up fees of all kinds to the extent that the term "air fare" may soon become a nearly meaningless base price for air travel.  
Fees are also making comparison price shopping for air travel much more difficult. 
Imagine how nice it would be if the slime bag U.S. airlines had to
post notices like these in U.S. airports:

Paris Orly Airport
Paul's response:
Airports and airlines generally resist any type of mandatory posting and even prohibit groups like FlyersRights.org from distributing passenger rights  literature or even advertising in their in flight magazines. 

Even the DOT fails to include on its web site some passenger rights like the right to compensation for flight delays on international flights and generally does not require airlines to so inform passengers of their rights.  

The DOT also gives incomplete and inaccurate advice on its web site concerning its consumer assistance program and  passenger ability to obtain relief in court for passenger claims. This may take litigation, legislation, rulemaking and/or new leadership at DOT to change.
On a recent flight with American Airlines, the gate attendants were requiring that roller bags must fit perfectly in the luggage sizer or else be checked. 
Why are these metal luggage sizers so much smaller than the actual overhead compartments? These metal frame sizers have been around for decades and certainly were not made with roller bags in mind. 
Also, what about carry on pieces that are oddly shaped (not like a rectangle)? It seems the sizers should be made to look like an overhead compartment instead. What can flyers do about this? Can you help?

Paul's response:
American Airlines web site states:
"carry-on bag must fit comfortably in the sizer without being forced and does not exceed overall dimensions of 45 inches (length + width + height).

The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22" long x 14" wide x 9" tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin."

Very few roller bags meet these sizer box dimensions but still fit comfortably in the overhead baggage containers.
I can relate  personally to this complaint and hope we receive other reports on whether airlines are abusing use of baggage fees, as this has become the No. 1 source of new airline revenue.
I recently flew on American to South America and was stopped from entering the security line by an airline employee who wanted me to check my carry on roller bag.  This would have involved an additional fee of $200 as a third bag in addition to a $170 fee paid for a checked second bag, an effective 50% increase in the air fare.  (After removing a few pieces of clothing it just fit.) 

In order to check three bags American now charges $370 to over $1,100 depending on size or weight for international flights, about double the coach air fare.
Several days prior to the flight I tried to call American and also emailed customer service to obtain clarification of their confusing baggage fees to no avail (they have at least six potential fees for Latin America and different fees for other destinations).   

I have asked for a partial refund and requested American clarify its baggage fee schedule, which deceptively fails to mention that fees for bags over 50 lbs. or over 62 inches are surcharges in addition to already high checked bag fees.  No substantive response yet received. 
I would like to contribute to your blog but I don't like pay pal. Is there another way?

Paul's response:
Yes, you can donate by check or money order sent to FlyersRights.org or Flyers Rights Education Fund, Inc., 4411 Bee Ridge Rd. #274, Sarasota, Florida 34233.   
It should also be possible to use a credit card through PayPal.  
We can also accept advertising on our website and our newsletters!

We are working on other ways to donate.  Thank you!

Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, Flyersrights president

FlyersRights is the only organization
 looking out for travelers. 
Your support keeps us going!

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 support!
Friends In High Places
Class Warfare in the Sky

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tim Enthoven, NYT
The contrasts between coach, business class, and first class have been there for decades. That's nothing new. 
But today, the difference is opulence versus steerage.  
In an op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times journalist James Atlas says statusization - to coin a useful term - is ubiquitous, no matter what your altitude.
The basic premise is that the spread between first class and economy travel has never been greater, and economy cabin travel is far, far worse today than any any point in history. 

Nowadays, outrageous fares are required to pay for comfortable travel, or suffer the misery of coach class. 
Stratification needs to have limits for public safety, convenience 
and comfort, said FlyersRights' president, Paul Hudson.

"Steerage class and slave ships were highly profitable for ship owners, and actually subsidized high class accommodations," Hudson points out.

Airlines should not be allowed to follow those pathways.
The Great Divide at Airport Security
The class struggle begins on the ground, at the security line.
Why is it that the airlines can prioritize the delivery of public services based upon how much one pays them? Why should someone with a first-class seat be allowed to bypass everyone else when waiting to go through airport security, run by a government agency and paid for with tax dollars?  

The long lines exist because TSA refuses to devote sufficient resources to reduce or eliminate such lines. How difficult would it be to add more machines and employees during the rush? 

But TSA doesn't, and thus, the demand is created, and the ability for someone to make money by selling access to a shorter line. 
"The fees paid for security are flat fees not percentage charges based on ticket price, so everyone is paying the same," says Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.  "Therefore if higher end ticket holders get better service without higher fees, they are effectively being subsidized by economy passengers."
"The Trusted Traveler program fees should be nominal because it saves TSA security expenses and should improve security in theory," Hudson says.
Sure, airlines should be able to reward their best customers. But, not at the expense of everyone else.

Standards Needed for Coach Seating 
It's not always about comfort, it's also about safety. Too many seats in a
cramped economy cabin and you have problems trying to exit the plane in an emergency. Even the exit rows have dangerously tight seat pitch.  

If there is inadequate spacing between seats, this creates not only an uncomfortable and unhealthy situation for passengers, but also a potentially unsafe environment in the event of an emergency evacuation.

If the airline seat does not have enough space in front of you for your femur, it is simply unsafe to travel in.
This sort of problem invites re-regulation to establish standards. Why not set limits for seats as well as for on-time performance? 
In the crash landing at SFO, the injured mostly had back injuries caused by the hard impact with the ground. Could the passengers prepare for a crash landing, as shown on the safety card?

Perhaps not. One of the illustrations shows a man grasping the top of the chair in front of him with hands crossed as a cradle for his head such that his back was totally unsupported between head and hips. Anyone in that position during that crash could now have a broken back and possibly be a paraplegic. 
It may be that one outcome of this crash will be that the airlines will be ordered to increase the chair spacing such that all passengers can put their heads
between their legs, as illustrated in the safety card. 
We need to fix our airline services. We can and we must! 
Airlines Reward Best Customers At Expense Of Everyone Else
Only a few of these passengers got flights out of SFO following the Asiana crash, depending on how many miles they fly and their "value" to the airline.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

After the Asiana crash, hundreds of flights were canceled, stranding thousands of travelers at airports across the country.

NPR did a piece on the injustice passengers faced when their flights were cancelled or overbooked.  

How the airlines handled all those stranded travelers during a time of crisis offers a revealing window into how they view their passengers.

The fate of each traveler depended almost entirely on their "status" or value with the airline, not how far they have come or how long they have been trying to get home.   

Following an accident or when bad weather closes an airport, available seats are doled out based on a customer's calculated status, not how long they have been waiting to get home.  A better solution would be to treat everyone the same and try to help everyone equally.

Vacationers who buy a cheap airline ticket once or twice a year are almost worthless to an airline.

It's the frequent business travelers that get special attention. These travelers produce tens of thousands of dollars a year in profits for an airline, and will bump a confirmed low-value passenger off a crowded flight.

Bottom line, if you are confirmed on a flight, you should have a contract to fly.  You have paid your fare and confirmed your seat.  So if you show up to the flight on time, you should have the right to exercise that contract and take that seat.

Airport Settles With Fourth Amendment Flasher

Aaron Tobey at the time of his arrest in Dec. 2010 atualizadodaweb.com
A lawsuit filed by a man who was handcuffed and detained for nearly 90 minutes at the Richmond International Airport in Virginia by TSA because he removed his shirt to display the text of the Fourth Amendment to protest security procedures, has been settled.

Aaron Tobey of Charlottesville had claimed airport police and TSA officers violated his free-speech rights.

Tobey sued the TSA and the airport, and following a year and a half of legal proceedings, the organizations have now settled.  Richmond's airport security personnel is being forced to brush up on American Government 101.
Officials announced this week that their security officers underwent a special two-hour training course on the First and Fourth Amendment rights of passengers as a part of a settlement with Mr. Tobey.

Read More: Politix.Topix.com 
Exploiting Your Fear

Do you dread the middle seat?  Hate sitting in the rear row with no recline?  

The airlines are well aware of this and are taking advantage of you when you choose a seat after buying your ticket.

According to The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney, airlines create an "artificial shortage" in seats so that you will shell out for a better one.

He points to an example where two weeks before a scheduled departure of an AA flight from Los Angeles to New York, the seat map showed only two middle seats in the back of the airplane available, plus 11 Preferred seats-regular coach seats toward the front without extra legroom-available for a $56.44 fee.

One week before the flight,  the seat map for non-elites showed only one available middle seat in the back of plane, plus the same 11 Preferred seats at $56.44 each. But elite-level customers saw a total of 41 of 128 coach seats empty.

"Those seats show up on seat maps as occupied for customers without elite status, leading them to conclude seats are scarce. This prompts a portion of
them to pony up," says McCartney. 

What to do?  McCartney says pick seats online 24 hours before departure. If you still don't have a seat, get to the airport early and talk to someone at the ticket counter.     

Last week we misidentified the number of crashes Asiana Airlines has experienced. The recent July 6, 2013 crash was the airline's third fatal accident and the second involving passengers since the company began operations in 1988. 

Two crew members were killed in July 2011 when a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft crashed into the East China Sea after a fire on the main cargo deck.

In July 1993, an Asiana Boeing 737 on route from Seoul in bad weather flew into a hillside on its approach to Mokpo, the southern South Korean city, killing 64 passengers and four crew members.
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Paul Hudson, FlyersRights President
Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, FlyersRights Founder

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 support!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Asiana Crash
Highlights Need for Better In-Cabin Safety
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The July 6, 2013 San Francisco Airport tragedy highlighted weak safety measures that FlyersRights has supported for years. 
Asiana Airlines crash interior

The mainstream message has been about how many improvements have been on the body of the aircraft to keep the plane from breaking up on impact. But no one is talking about the vital safety improvements needed inside the cabin, except FlyersRights

Here are the safety issues not being addressed:

* FAA does drills to ascertain whether people can exit a plane in 90 seconds under certain very controlled conditions.

* They never use a plane with substandard seat pitch. (A relative term since there are NO FAA REGULATIONS mandating seat pitch in any row other than the exit rows, only the aisle width and exit row seat pitch for egress in an emergency are regulated by the FAA).
* To increase profits, airlines have been allowed to insert rows of seats making the pitch substandard and deadlier from an egress and Deep Vein Thrombosis standpoint on longer flights.
Billowing smoke from Asiana 777 crash 
* Only the flight crews are given smoke inhalation masks. Passengers are not given any such safety mechanism. Smoke inhalation and lack of egress are the largest cause of injuries in any crash.

* There are many problems with assuming the brace position as described in safety materials in the seat pocket.  Primarily that it is impossible when the seat ahead is too close.  
With the steadily shrinking distance between seats to squeeze in more passengers, the average sized person cannot brace themselves. 
* Additional cause of injury and death is the plastic melting from the overhead compartments (another shortcut on airline equipment; the airlines could put in titanium baggage compartments that don't melt).

One Passenger: 'We Had to Help Each Other Out'

According to Asiana Passenger Benjamin Levy, passengers were on their own. There were no announcements from the cockpit, and the flight attendants were nowhere to be found.  He pried open the escape door and began to call out directions.
Between 30-40 passengers managed to escape through the door beside him, he said, even though no chute had inflated at that exit. 
The chutes at the other emergency exit doors had properly deployed and many other passengers clambered down to the tarmac onto piles of scattered debris, Mr. Levy said.  But he and several others remained aboard to assist other passengers
Instead, they headed to the back of the plane, which seemed to have taken the brunt of the impact. The overhead compartments had opened during the crash, pouring down luggage on passengers.


Vital Advice

* Don't attempt to retrieve your personal belongings.  Focus on getting safely out of the aircraft as quickly (and calmly) as possible.  Many experts were astonished to see survivors in the photo above actually pulling their carry-on luggage from the wreckage.
Those escape slides are there to get a planeload of people out of, and away from, the aircraft as fast as possible, without their luggage. Jumping into a slide with carry-ons puts physical obstacles directly in the path of others.

* When flying, always wear cotton clothing. (Synthetics melt to your skin.)

* Always wear tennis shoes and do not remove them until the aircraft has reached cruising altitude (the pilot usually notifies the cabin and turns off the Fasten Seatbelt signs).  Put your shoes back on before the plane begins its final descent.

* Buy yourself smoke inhalation masks as they are only about $40.  The airlines provide them to the crew but they don't provide any for the passengers.

* Sit close to the emergency exits and count how many seats between you and the exit row in case the aisle lighting does not light up.  Don't go to sleep until cruising altitude and when using an ipod or listening to music always have the volume such that you can hear the pilot at the same time.

Lack of Response by Asiana Officials
Another outrage noted in the aftermath of the Asiana crash was the failure of the airline to provide adequate information to the survivor's families on its website. 
In the hours immediately following the crash, the "Fly Asiana.com" website only posted (in small print) an acknowledgement that the tragedy had occurred, but did not include any useful information such as emergency phone or consulting contact information. 
They also made no attempt to contact the victim's families to provide updates or assurances about their loved ones.
Before And After the Crash
By Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org
Asiana 214 KSFO Crash Landing ATC
The recent Asiana Boeing 777 crash landing at the San Francisco International Airport that killed two and injured about 180 is being investigated by US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  
Initial reports point to a pilot inexperienced in landing the Boeing 777 at the tricky San Francisco airport with perhaps poor English comprehension, coupled with the shut-down of an approach guidance system used at this airport.  
The Korean Asiana Airline has now had five accidents and, for a time, was reportedly banned from flying to the US due safety concerns.  NTSB investigations normally take weeks or months to determine what went wrong.
However, all airline passengers and especially those involved directly or indirectly need to know basic air crash safety facts and their rights.
Air Crash Facts and Safety

The chances of dying in an air crash are low (one in 22 million), but if you are in an air crash, about 50-50.  Air crash accident statistics also generally exclude deaths from aviation terrorism which now exceed the accident death toll.  Most passengers who die in crash landings survive the impact, but then die from smoke, fire or drowning. 

Federal safety rules require each new airliner design to pass an emergency evacuation test.  The test requires evacuation of the maximum number of occupants within 90 seconds (the time it normally takes for fire and smoke to overcome passengers and make survival difficult) in low light conditions with half the exits disabled. 
In recent times, the FAA has failed to make the test realistic by allowing it to be conducted with practiced, young and fit employees or sometimes even with computer simulations.  No actual testing with real live passengers has ever been required.  
Safety advocates such as the Aviation Consumer Action Project and the flight attendants unions have unsuccessfully sought realistic testing for emergency evacuation, so far to no avail.

FlyersRights.org believes the FAA needs to conduct rulemaking to specify  safe seat size and distance between seat rows.  At present, only the aisle width leading to exits is regulated and even this rule is often waived.
Smoke hoods are available for as little as $40 that protect against smoke inhalation, the most common cause of injury in airline crash landings.  They are generally supplied to crew but not passengers.  

FlyersRights.org and other air safety advocates have recommended that these should be required for passengers as well as crew members. (See U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Paul S. Hudson and Aviation Consumer Action Project v. FAA).

Due to fees for checked baggage and frequent mishandling of baggage, most passengers now use carry-on luggage that is stored in overhead compartments with plastic doors. In crash landings or even rough ones, baggage comes raining down on passengers and can obstruct exit aisles.  

FlyersRights.org supports reinforcement or stronger overhead baggage with nonflammable material to reduce this safety risk.
Legal Rights of Passengers After a Crash

Airline passengers on international flights have compensation rights under a treaty known as the Montreal Convention of 1999, (view Paul Hudson's article on the subject here). 

This provides for no fault compensation for bodily injury or death of up to about $149,000, usually without going to court.  Beyond the no fault amount, negligence must be shown but compensation can be significantly higher in the United States courts. This normally requires litigation and takes several years.  Lawyers who specialize in representing air crash victims generally charge 10%  to up to one third of the total recovery in legal fees, plus the litigation expenses. 

International passenger compensation affected by excessive flight delay are also covered by Montreal Convention and eligible for up to $6,200 in damages for flight delays, unless the airline took all reasonable steps to avoid or mitigate the delay.  

Passengers on domestic flights have no delay compensation rights unless it is provided for in the airline contract of carriage, although most airlines will provide hotel, meal and local transportation vouchers for stranded passengers and must provide refunds if the flight is canceled.  Airlines should provide alternate transportation either by air or ground to passengers' destination for flights excessively delayed, but often this must be negotiated with the airline.  

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Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, Founding Member
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president
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