AA, US Airways Prepare For Take-Off, Passengers Prepare For Rip-Off
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
In a sudden reversal last week, the Justice Department appeared to knuckle under to the American-US Airways' massive lobbying effort.
Last week the government announced it was dropping its lawsuit to block the carriers from merging, stating they had all "reached a settlement."
But three months ago, DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder said this: "The American people deserve better. This transaction would result in consumers paying the price - in higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices."
Back then in its complaint, the Justice Department strongly objected to only three legacy airlines plus Southwest controlling 80 percent of domestic air service.
The DOJ also warned there were "thousands" of routes where US Airways and American "compete directly," and that competition between would be eliminated.
Dozens of flight attendants, pilots and airline union members rallied in front of the Capitol 9/18/2013 in support of a merger that would create the world's largest airline. Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press/MCT
Since then, a vast lobbying campaign was launched by American and US Airways.
Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago's mayor and formerly President Obama's chief of staff, along with the mayors of Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Fort Worth, Miami and Charlotte, N.C., signed a letter calling on Mr. Holder to drop his opposition to the merger.
Sixty-eight Democratic members of Congress wrote a similar letter to President Obama.
The two airlines also organized a "fly in" for more than 300 employees, who lobbied lawmakers before rallying on Capitol Hill.
Now, the DOJ says that if the two carriers forfeit takeoff and landing slots at airports, that would foster competition and lead to lower prices.
FlyersRights president Paul Hudson told the New York Times that the effects of consolidation would overwhelm any concessions won by the Justice Department.
"It doesn't begin to deal with the fact that the industry is now so concentrated that the big four airlines are going to have unprecedented pricing power," he said, referring to United, Delta, Southwest and the new merged American.
But giving up the slots, Mr. Hudson said, is "a slight mitigation, certainly a mitigation of concentration, most particularly at Reagan National." (NYT link)
"Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities that control major airports use their major airports as cash cows and patronage troughs. They stand to profit from monopolistic airline mergers and practices that drive up airfares and traffic and may also wish to protect their own antitrust exemptions. Airline passenger advocates are conspicuously from their controlling boards."
"But this merger is not yet a done deal. Under the Tunney Act, enacted to prevent back-room antitrust settlements, the American public will have 60 days to comment on the settlement once it is published in the Federal Register, and at least two courts must then approve the merger. The law also requires that the parties release all their settlement communications, which should be interesting."
called a "race to the bottomIt's called a "race to the bottom
It's called a "race to the bottom
Planes N Paws
The Airlines Are Going To The Dogs
The New York Times is
reporting on a backlash to emotional support animals on planes.
The increasing appearance of pets on airplanes whose owners say they are needed for emotional support goes back to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating that animals used to aid people with depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.
Airlines used to provide for nearly all animals to be transported in carriers and kennel or baggage sections of airliners. Now many airlines have reduced, restricted or phased out their animal transport facilities. Instead, most airlines now allow dogs or cats to be transported in carriers that fit under seats, which generally means 8 pounds or less. Guide dogs of nearly any size are permitted in the cabin due at least in part to laws that prohibit discrimination against the disabled. This has led to a big increase in dogs on airliners and in airports and calls for requiring "pet relief" areas at airports.
Allowing dogs for emotional support will no doubt allow a new big increase in pets in airline passenger cabins. Clearly, this development represents another degradation of service for passengers who are allergic or phobic to dogs or cats, or just want their seatmates to be humans.
I have already observed families traveling with medium size dogs who seem to be motivated more by cost saving and convenience rather than necessity for handicap reasons.
As a long-time owner of two 15 lb. dogs who can't fit under seats, I can appreciate dog owners' unwillingness to have medium or large dogs placed in stressful cargo transporters.
However, clearly rules will be needed that protect human air travelers as well as non-human. Perhaps, an 8 pound limit on emotional support animals in the cabin with pet friendly sections of airliners where airlines want to be able to transport animals but not offer kennel service would be a start.
From the Mailbag!
Question: I fly a moderate amount. I am usually in the air at least twice a month.
Last Spring I applied for Global Entry, as I do not like to go through the large scanner, (The main reason for my application). The cost, 100.00 dollars non-refundable.
After a four month wait I had an interview. I was told I would know whether I was 'Cleared' in two weeks. Five weeks later I inquired about my application and I was told I had a hold on it.
I had had a record of a DUI from 1994, even though I paid all fines and completed service, and it was completely finished and off my driving record.
I still had to call the managing TSA officer. That was August.
Twenty some calls to the office, I finally caught up with the Managing Officer (Mike Gulkis, PHL international) for one conversation for four minutes.
"You will have your GE pass in a week". Three weeks later I receive a
notice from GOES email: "Denied -NO COMMENT-"
So I took it to the Ombudsman, Three weeks and no response there. Is TSA Broken? I think so.
Answer: Now that it has been 12 years since the TSA was established to stop terrorism against American aviation, the lack of transparency and due process, coupled with unnecessarily intrusive searches, confiscations or even theft of property, plus sometimes humiliating invasions of privacy is inexcusable.
This situation has undermined public support and confidence for the TSA and is potentially opening new opportunities for terrorists.
Americans should not be denied trusted traveler status because of old traffic offenses. Tens of thousands should not be placed on "watch lists" for an old misdemeanor or tax offenses, for having complained of bad service on an airline or abusive searching by TSA, or an array of other non-terrorism related matters. The burden should be on the TSA to justify such decisions.
Particularly since TSA Administrator Pistole negotiated quick entry status for Saudi Arabian citizens, decided to allow knives back on airliners (until reversed by public, flight attendant, airline and Congressional and TSA screener outcry), was countermanded by the courts in the use of nude scanners, and most recently failed to have protection or timely rescue procedures in place for TSA screeners from a mass shooting at LAX.
Elementary American due process requires notice and opportunity to be heard.
The deprivation or severe restriction on the constitutional right to travel and the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches whether by the TSA or an airline should require the opportunity to confront ones accuser, rational decision making and the opportunity for administrative and judicial review, as set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act.
Secret proceedings and decisions as in the secret Star Chamber of 18th Century England, the delay and opaqueness government processes of other totalitarian systems described by Franz Kafka, and 20th Century communist nation judicial systems should have no place in the US air transportation system, especially 12 years after 9/11.
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president
Q. Dear Flyers Rights,
My wife and I's confirmed seats keep getting split up on flights we've booked.
I make the reservations, confirm the seats, but when I get to the airport they have rearranged us.
Friends of our are experiencing the same problems. They are a family of 9 and have made confirmed seating on their flight to Australia in February. On a weekly basis, they must look at their confirmed seats to see if they have been split up. This has happened several times to them. At first, I thought it was just a computer glitch until I read the following article in USA TODAY. Can anything be done?
A. This would appear to be both unfair and deceptive practice that the DOT should be required to stop even under the existing laissez faire for everything approach.
The airline is depriving you of a service without your consent or due compensation, (i.e. reserved seats) and should definitely be held accountable.
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president
Q. Please do NOT support cell phones on airplanes. Can you imagine
sitting next to someone who chatters away for an entire flight?
A. FlyersRights does not support cell phone calls in the air for invasion of privacy and safety reasons. The use of cell phones in airplane mode should not pose these problems, but no doubt some passengers will need to be shown where that button is. See our comments to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post.
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.
This will grant you direct access to FlyersRights experts to help resolve air travel problems in real time and where necessary referral to legal assistance. Guidance and advice is, and will continue to be, free to all passengers. But intervention or representation for an individual passenger which has not been provided before, is intended for contributing members. Airlines, on the other hand, are imposing extra fees for services and features that were previously included in the airfare, and were never free.
Police stand guard at LAX on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Sad to say but air crashes are not the only life threatening dangers faced in air travel. Or even in everyday life.
Survival in mass shooting situations often is based on the three reactions built into our primitive animal brain when faced with mortal danger: freeze, flight, or fight.
Accounts of mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Mumbai show that some people survived just by holding still and playing dead even just a few feet from the shooter.
The LAX shooter, like all predators, was attracted to movement. He returned to his primary victim and fatally shot him again when he is reported to have seen him moving.
Running, fleeing and hiding is recommended if not in close proximity to the shooter, which most people did at the recent LAX attack.
If neither freezing, fleeing or hiding is available, it is recommended you fight and counter-attack the attacker.
It may increase your survival by throwing the attacker off-guard, encourage others to join you, and at least buy time for other victims and rescuers.
Training for first responders to mass shootings has now been changed from secure a perimeter and wait for back up, to attack the shooter immediately.
A week after the LAX shooting attack on TSA agents, there has apparently been no dramatic change in airport security to deter or prevent more of the same.
Instead the debate has evolved into whether some TSA agents should be armed or not. Or whether the LAX attack should be classified as a workplace incident, thereby downplaying any responses based on terrorist threats.
Whether or not more attacks follow may depend largely on whether preventative measures are taken to deter and prevent or mitigate, now that US airport vulnerability is known to the whole world.
Only slightly less scary is the mindset of many security experts and anti-TSA passengers who fatalistically say that nothing much can or should be done. The same sentiments were voiced after PanAm 103 that killed 270 in 1988. Only until 3,000 died in 2001 was action taken.
Since then only one fatality has occurred, TSA agent Hernandez on 11/1/13.
If you are fed up with seats which are ridiculously small (in economy class), you won't be flying on Emirates after reading this.
Bloomberg is reporting that the aircraft leasing firm Doric plans to order 20 Airbus 380s by the end of the year with 11-across economy seating to boost sales.
These particular A380s will be configured with as many as 630 seats, which means that this high-density version could carry up to 200 or more passengers more than the existing model.
While Emirates is the largest operator of the A380, and has said it's considering follow-up purchases, other Airbus customers are retreating. Qantas Airways Ltd. has deferred orders, as has Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. Lufthansa has dropped purchase plans this year for three A380s, as has Air France KLM.
We wonder how Emirates gets to be called "the airline of the year". They already have a surprisingly cramped business class in all of their fleet (777 being the worst with 7-abreast) and now this.
So much for Emirates being a "premium" airline. This should be proof to everyone that this is an airline that doesn't concern itself with comfort for its passengers anymore. Instead, its sole focus is on saving costs wherever they can and a rather heartless approach to moving the masses around the globe.
Most seating configuration likely this means seat widths are 17 inches and a 3-5-3 layout. Very cramped conditions are proof that Emirates' strategy has obviously changed in the past few years.
There's money to be made off passenger comfort, and it won't end well for any of us. Only when someone dies from deep vein thrombosis on board will these airlines realize that it is not only the bottom line that matters, if then.
Airlines are continuously placing less than subtle pressure on their passengers to pay more to upgrade. But you shouldn't have to pay more for a product that was available to you not all that long ago.
This is like the food companies reducing the size of cereal or peanut butter, while keeping the price the same.
The airlines aren't jumping for joy that passengers can now use electronic devices throughout their flights.
But they ARE looking forward to an opportunity to charge for yet another convenience: the electrical outlet.
As the airlines are intent on charging fees for everything these days, we can predict fees for...well...charging!
Twenty-five dollars for an in-flight battery charge, or maybe a sliding scale of fees depending on whether it's for an MP3 player, iPod, iPhone or Android device, tablet or iPad.
The ban on using cellphones to talk and text remains, but passengers are now allowed to use their cellphones to read, listen to music and play games so long as they are in airplane mode.
The FAA is also requiring each airline to independently verify that the use of those electronic devices do not adversely impact their own aircraft equipment. Until that testing is completed and documented, the existing rules theoretically remain in effect.
Thankfully there's still a ban on phone calls (for now), which likely would result in "road rage in the sky", as a few loud passengers can ruin the flight for everyone.
It was a disastrous way to end the week, with a mass exodus of passengers drifting down Century Boulevard on foot.
LAX was closed for 36 hours and was an isolated crime scene for a day.
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president affirmed "this was a travel nightmare that could have been a total horror show and major massacre."
The news that TSA agents were shot and one killed by someone targeting the organization was a shock.
Was it an arbitrary attack? Or was there nothing random about this shooting?
A casual comparison between TSA's Instagram feed and Friday's news photos raises the question of a possible cause-and-effect between TSA's confiscated guns and those weapons becoming icons rather than an effective PR campaign for an organization long nicknamed "security theater".
TSA chief, John Pistole, has called for a complete airport security overhaul, something Hudson has long advocated for.
Hudson stressed that he "was against taking down armed security at major airports after 9/11 when on he served on the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (1997-2007) and heading the Families of Pan Am 103/Lockerbie."
"Especially after the armed attack on El Al at LAX," he said, "and the confession by KSM mastermind of 9/11 attacks, that Al Qaeda had follow on armed attacks planned against major airports, to kill and hijack aircraft on the ground, then takeoff and crash into nearby targets."
"This attack reveals anew a glaring vulnerability to terrorists, and considering the recent U.S. attacks on Islamic terrorist leadership in Pakistan, Libya and Somalia, retaliation attacks must be expected." Hudson said.
There have been other domestic terror attacks against U.S. government personnel, most notably the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
Other armed assaults on airports include the Rome, Italy airport by Palestinian terrorists in 1985.
Hudson remarked that additional defensive security measures are needed to stop copy-cat attacks.
TSA claims to have deployed behaviorism to detect nervous persons who may be terrorists, but apparently nothing to stop a brazen armed attack.
Hudson is calling for President Obama to ensure visible armed security is in place at all category X airports using national guard if necessary, as was done after 9/11.
"This is necessary to both deter further attacks and reassure the flying public," he asserted.
Compounding the mess on Friday were reports of airlines actually charging passengers to switch their flights. A FlyersRights member wrote in with his experience:
Like all Americans, we were shocked and angered by the shooting In terminal 3 at LAX.
We were on route to LAX with my 80 year old mother-in-law when we heard the news and turned around before reaching LAX.
Since LAX was on a lockdown, she missed her flight. We called Alaska airlines to re-book for tomorrow and were shocked when they wanted to charge a $100 change fee!
I know this situation was out of anyone's control but in the spirit of understanding and customer loyalty you'd think they understand and waive the fees to those who missed their flights today.
It took 20 minutes and the threat of legal action to get the airline to back down and waive the change fee.
I wonder how many passengers paid the fee adding to
Alaska Airlines profits while the airline took advantage of
A frequent flyer
From Santa Monica
Time To Burn Those Miles
Buried in Friday's news was United Airline's unprecedented announcement of a massivedevaluation of their frequent flyer program.
The airline will soon require a much higher number of frequent-flier miles to book its flights, especially with its Star Alliance partners in business and first-class to international destinations.
UAL spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson told USA Today the change was made "to account for the increased cost of providing transportation."
Some of the new partner award redemption rates are shocking and it appears to no longer make sense to accumulate miles on its Chase MileagePlus credit card.
"United's action in drastically devaluing its frequent-flyer miles shows the need for rules that grandfather in benefits and require 6-12 month notice for major program changes." said Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president.
"Airlines sell frequent-flyer miles to credit card companies for cash up front, then the miles build up as a liability on their balance sheet, so they are highly motivated to devalue them with unilateral program changes or by drastically limiting their use." Hudson remarked.
FlyersRighs has advocated for mandatory disclosure of the usage rate of frequent-flyer miles versus how many expire unused.
Unsurprisingly, United was nominated as America's Worst Airline by The Airline Quality Report earlier this year.
TSA Changes After Knife-Ban Reversal Voted by U.S. House Panel
In another victory for FlyersRights, TSA will now be required to consult with industry groups on decisions like its short-lived move to end the ban on knives aboard airplanes, under a bill the House advanced today.
Representative Richard Hudson(R-NC), chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, said the legislation is a response to the TSA's attempt earlier this year to remove the ban on bringing small knives onto commercial flights. The agency reversed itself in June after protests by flight attendants, airline executives and TSA employees.
"One day Harvard Business School will teach a seminar on how not to roll out a new rule," Hudson, a North Carolina Republican, said in an interview. "This will be the textbook example."
Ideas such as relaxing the knives ban should be discussed with industry groups like airlines, airports and unions before they're announced, Rep. Hudson said. He said he supported the policy change and criticized the way TSA Administrator John Pistole went about it.
The agency also has a warehouse full of equipment it bought and never used, while companies have put time and money into developing technology TSA asked for before deciding it was no longer interested, he said.
"Everyone I talked to said the process is broken," Rep. Hudson said. "If you look at the amount of money involved, this is a place we could save significant money for the taxpayer."
Makers of the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing, expressed concern over recurring glitches on the plane while at the same time insisting that it was a machine that has never caused issues with the safety of passengers.
"We are concerned (about the problems with Dreamliner). It's a machine, we did our best to design it... but something happens."
"But it is a safe airplane, it has never caused issues with the safety of passengers," Dinesh Keskar, Senior Vice President (Sales, Asia-Pacific and India) of Boeing, said.
When asked about the incident of a panel in the belly of a Dreamliner aircraft falling off at Bangalore airport, he said, "It never put the lives of passengers or the aircraft at risk as it was just an access panel and not the pressurized one."
A 8x4 foot panel in the belly of a Dreamliner operated by Air India, which was carrying around 150 passengers, fell off as the plane from Delhi was landing at Bangalore airport on October 12.
Airline Stocks Soar as Passengers Suffer Record Fine for United
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
UAL Slapped with $1.1M Fine for Tarmac Stranding
FlyersRights has been awarded another victory by the federal government
thanks to the Department of Transportation (DOT) decision last Friday to fine United Airlines a record $1.1 million for more than a dozen tarmac delays last summer.
The delays took place at Chicago-O'Hare International Airport on July 13, 2012, when thunderstorms caused several ramp closures. The FlyersRights backed DOT rules prohibit U.S. airlines from allowing flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours at airports without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane, but 13 United flights exceeded the three-hour limit that summer day, the government said.
Some went over the limit by two minutes, and some by more than an hour, with lavatories out of commission on two United Express flights during part of the ordeal. A total of 939 passengers were grounded by the delays without the chance to deplane, according to DOT.
The airline won't have to pay the full $1.1 million fine. Less than half of the penalty -- $475,000 -- is due within 30 days, but the rest is credited to United, including $185,000 for compensation the carrier paid to passengers and $440,000 for the cost of improvements United will make at O'Hare International Airport.
"The good news is that it's a record fine," said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org. "They were, for the most part, either not fining airlines or giving very low fines... (so) it's good news, but it could be better news." Hudson was disappointed that only $185,000 was allocated as compensation to the impacted passengers, amounting to less than $200 per flier. He believes a fine of $10 a minute per passenger over the three-hour limit would be more reasonable compensation.
Hudson also pointed out that as large as the fine is, the government allows penalties of up to $27,500 per passenger for airlines that violate the tarmac delay rules, which would amount to a maximum fine of more than $25 million in this case.
He was also concerned that it's taking the government more than a year to investigate tarmac delay incidents, but called Friday's announcement a positive development.
"It's certainly a (step) in the right direction," Hudson said, adding that it's too early to tell whether United's punishment will help prevent similar incidents in the future.
"What's happening and will probably continue to happen is - unless there are some more attention-getting fines - is that airlines will make the calculation as to whether it's better to accept a fine of a few hundred thousand dollars or to obey the three-hour rule."
Washington, D.C. - Airline lobbyists will have an increasingly hard time pleading poverty when it comes promoting mergers and opposing consumer regulation in the coming months as airline stocks have skyrocketed on average over 100% in the past year.
An analysis by FlyersRights.org found that U.S. based airlines rewarded their shareholders with eye popping stock price increases in the past year.
Paul Hudson, President of the group, called on Congress and the DOT to step up to enact and enforce meaningful airline passenger protections, noting:
"Gotcha fees for everything, overcrowding, shrinking seats and legroom, reduced competition due to mergers, coupled with aviation security abuses, have accelerated the downward spiral of the air travel experience."
"It is high time for Congress to review the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 that courts have interpreted to exempt airlines from all state and local consumer protection laws and for the US DOT to exercise its statutory power to prevent 'unfair and deceptive' airline practices."
US Flagged Carrier Stock Prices and One Year Increases from 10/25/12 to 10/25/13:
Question: Is there any energy growing for a national strike day against the airlines to declare our resistance to this insanity of making smaller seats when the nation is clearly larger?
How can we be so impotent as their customers? -S.B.
I see three possible approaches: 1. An emergency petition to the FAA/DOT asking for a moratorium on any seat reductions while the safety and comfort is investigated and new regulations can be adopted, b) a boycott of airliners and perhaps who use them, c) an online petition demanding Congress and the airlines to stop this new assault on passenger safety, health, comfort and convenience.
I remember a time (it was brief) during the late 1960's when airlines provided live entertainment on their cross flights. Yes, live bands! After that ended, they would have an electric piano next to the stand up bar for anyone to play. I'm a musician and spent one flight from NY to LA playing the piano. It was so much fun. Never did I imagine that we would become the police state that we are now, starting with air travel. On a lighter note (pun intended), you deserve a thousand cheers for your work!
With Much Appreciation,
Follow up imagery from last week's "Slimline" Squeeze Play newsletter:
Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights
FlyersRights will offer premium memberships
for a $10
monthly (or more) contribution.
This will grant you direct access to FlyersRights experts to help resolve air travel problems in real time and where necessary referral to legal assistance.
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.
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.