Tuesday, March 25, 2014


 Worth It?
Why Didn't Malaysia Airlines Buy A Cheap Upgrade That Could Have Tracked Lost Jet?
Is It Unethical For Passenger Airlines To Carry Hazardous Cargo?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yesterday the Malaysian prime minister said MH370 crashed to offer some closure to the families, but that will not happen until debris and the black boxes are found and analyzed. 
A computer upgrade that Malaysia Airlines decided not to purchase would have provided critical information on the direction, speed and altitude of Flight MH370 even after other communications from the plane went dark, a report said last Thursday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The question remains, why did Malaysia Airlines skimp on a cheap upgrade that would have better tracked the plane? 

The technology already exists to immediately relay the black box data via satellite, but some commercial airlines have refused to invest the money in such systems, as bottom lines come under pressure due to rising fuel costs and increasing competition.

A simple computer add-on that Malaysia Airlines didn't buy would have provided information to help find the plane and could have prevented the long wait before a conclusion to this very sad episode, a report said last Thursday.

A similar system enabled searchers to locate the Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Wreckage from that plane was found within five days.

Save $10, Lose a $260 Million Airplane 

The missing Boeing 777-200ER is believed to have disappeared with little trace by turning off its transponder and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars).  
The Washington Post reported that an upgrade to an airline's system calledSwift - which costs around $10 per flight - would have enabled MH370 to transmit data about its trajectory and position even after the plane's transponder systems had been switched off.

It could have also sent information on engine performance, fuel consumption, speed, altitude and direction, regardless of whether the transponder and the Acars system were working. 

The data that Swift provides is mandatory under international aviation guidelines for airlines that fly the North Atlantic corridor between the United States and Europe. There are no such requirements standards elsewhere in the world.

The question remains, why isn't it mandated as it is for the US and EU?

Boeing Should Have Bundled It For Free

The Swift system is similar to a cellphone that sends data to a satellite. 
It sends information to the airline, but can also be programmed to send data to the manufacturer - usually Boeing or Airbus - and the engine maker - usually Rolls Royce or Pratt & Whitney, The Washington Post reported.

But some airlines have decided they don't want to pay the higher cost for an information stream that they deem unnecessary except under the most extreme circumstances, the report said.

Asked why an airline might choose not to buy an application that sells for a relatively modest cost, a satellite industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Washington Post said, "Every pound on an aircraft is fuel consumed. As in all matters, it always comes down to cost."

Rather than stream that data, he said, some airlines choose to download it onto a USB stick once the plane lands.

Because Malaysia Airlines went with the cheaper option, he said, "there was not an awful lot that was captured."

To recap: $260 million for the airplane, and Boeing charges extra for the software upgrade.

Aviation Security Rethink

Boeing 777 cockpit
The fact that a passenger jet could vanish for so long is shocking enough to compel changes in the way commercial aircraft are electronically monitored, aviation experts say.

Aside from the tragedy and all the unanswered questions, perhaps we can acknowledge that there may be some positives that come out of it.
One priority would be to improve tracking coverage in emergency situations when the plane goes beyond the coverage of conventional radar systems.

This event underscores the need to break some taboos in the cockpit and consider installing video/security cameras to catch improper management of the flight controls. 

Airlines should also no longer decide what safety features they wish to include or skimp on.

There should be emergency buttons throughout the plane to alert the cockpit and the ground that there is a problem, just like they have on buses and trains.

"There's no doubt that what has gone on is one of the greatest mysteries of modern aviation and it will have an impact on the global aviation and airline industry," Jonathan Galaviz, partner at the US-based travel and aviation consultancy firm Global Market Advisors told Agence France-Presse.

The airlines may move faster if top regulators such as the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency decide to make such systems mandatory for their respective jurisdictions within a set deadline, he said.

The concern is that passengers entrust their lives with these foreign airlines. Many codeshare with our national carriers, just as Malyasia Airline is in theOneWorld Alliance. You're in these remote areas and wonder about their oversight, but a foreign government is in control and you can't question its management.

The Cargo Question

Should hazardous materials be flown on commercial aircraft, with the passengers unaware?

News coverage has glossed over the Malaysia Airlines' cargo: lithium batteries. The CEO of Malaysian Airlines said they were 'small' and 'not hazardous'. 
There are two types of lithium batteries: small ones which are lithium metal, and larger ones that are rechargeable and are lithium ion. The smaller ones are more dangerous and pose a more significant fire hazard than the larger ones.

Lithium batteries are so hazardous they caused the loss of a UPS jet on September 3, 2010 in Dubai. The cabin became filled with deadly smoke in less than three minutes. There were no survivors. 
DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned the transport of lithium batteries in passenger aircraft in the US in 2004. Malaysian airlines took 13 days before they reported that this hazardous cargo was on this aircraft. For all we know the combustible cargo burned through the floor and fell out, allowing the 'ghost plane' to fly until the fuel ran out. 
Just 11 days before MH370 took off, airlines were placed on red alert over potentially catastrophic fire risks from lithium mobile phone batteries. 
The warning was issued by French authorities last month after a fire on board an Air France Boeing 777 in 2010 was found to be caused by a phone's lithium battery.   
FAA Maintains Boeing 787 "Safe"
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (Britton Staniar/ Bloomberg News)
report released last week makes the astonishing claim that the 787 Dreamliner reliability is the same or superior to the 777 - despite scores of emergency landings, numerous canceled flights, several fires and a nearly unprecedented four month grounding of the entire fleet. 
The FAA report also found no fault with its policy of delegating most of its safety oversight functions to Boeing. 
It also did not address battery fires and other safety incidents that are still being investigated by the NTSB and the accident investigation agencies of Japan, UK and India.
In addition, the unprecedented number of claims by Polish, Indian and Norwegian airlines against Boeing for 787 defects and reliability was not discussed.
At its March 21 meeting, FlyersRights president Paul Hudson, a member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, questioned why the FAA failed to respond to FlyersRights and the Aviation Consumer Action Project's formal petition calling for reduction of 787 authorization to two hours from three hours of flight time from the newarist landing zone until the airliner has demonstrated two years of trouble free operation, as has traditionally been required of other two-engine aircraft flying long distances over water.
The FAA representative declined to say when a response would be forthcoming.

Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president

FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lost in Translation

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The disappearance of a Boeing 777, one of the safest commercial jets in service, has become one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.
How is it possible for a plane like Malaysia Airline flight 370 to vanish without trace?  

A unique set of failures over the last ten years made the disappearance of a giant airliner, along with 239 passengers and crew members possible. 

Fault lies with the Malaysian carrier, radar blind-spots, no coordination between civil and military air-traffic control, shoddy passport inspection and lack of pilot background checks.

The flying public deserves much better. This situation has shown us that:
  • All passports should be double checked automatically with Interpol.
  • There should be data sent to ops directly from any flight at all times so we immediately know when-where-why if a flight is hijacked or crashes.  
Data was being sent from MH370, but certain data was not. The aircraft's maintenance troubleshooting systems were ready to communicate with satellites if needed, but no links were opened because Malaysia Airlines had not subscribed to the full troubleshooting service, a source close to the investigation said.
  • There should be high standards internationally for all commercial air carriers regarding a pilot's background and frame of mind.
  • When traveling overseas, hotels often require passengers to turn over their passports and these passports are sometimes stolen. Travelers should make copies of their passport for personal protection to discourage the stolen passport black market.
  • The FAA certifies other countries for their safety rating. Those countries often lobby to have their ratings skewed higher than they should be based on the number of incidents and accidents of their commercial carriers. 
FlyersRights should be the public watchdog to oversee the ratings for countries with substandard aviation standards. 
Kate Hanni, former president of FlyersRights said "I have been contacted by many families who've had this issue with a family member dying on a commercial airline in a Third World country, and bringing to my attention this idea that the FAA knows some countries are far safer than others to travel in. Yet if enough money flows in from the tourism industry suddenly they get a Category 1 rating regardless of putting our citizens in harms way."

 Last week, The BBC ran a show, 'Inside Science, Tracking Planes' with Dr. Matt Greaves, a Lecturer in Accident Investigation at Cranfield University, UK.  
It provides a good overall assessment of radar blind-spots andwhat is and isn't currently available. It's only 5 minutes long and available as a podcast:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03xgl4b

Another Malaysia Airlines Mystery: Who Pays? 
Int'l treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000

Washington Post
Published: 19:07 March 14, 2014

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, it's only a matter of time before the families of the lost passengers begin to ask a pair of questions: How much money will they receive for the losses of their loved ones, and who will pay?

They are questions that don't necessarily need to wait for the plane to be found to be answered.

As it turns out, there's an international treaty for every occasion. In this case, it's the 1999 Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, which entered into force in 2003 and standardizes the rights of passengers on international flights.

Under the Montreal Convention, "the airline, even if it's not responsible, is required to compensate the victims' families," said Mike Danko, an aviation attorney in Redwood Shores, California, who has worked on litigation related to the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July 2013. Passengers of that crash have filed suits against Asiana Airlines and, in January 2014, against Boeing.

In some instances the airline will not even wait until the wreckage is found to start discussing payments - that was the case when Air France began dispersing money to the family of each passenger aboard a flight that went down off the coast of Brazil in June 2009 just days after it disappeared.
"The question," according to Danko, "is how much."

The treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000 per person, but how that gets doled out is specific to each incident. After Air India Express Flight 812 crashed in May 2010, the Indian government said that the airline was liable for up to $160,000 per passenger, but when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crashed taking off from Beirut in January of the same year, the airline only paid out $20,000 per passenger.

"The real issue, as is the case in all these cases, is under whose law," Danko said. That gets more complicated. Victims' families have the option to sue for more damages in multiple countries under the Montreal Convention, and they will likely file suit in the country where they're most likely to win their cases and receive the highest settlements. In this case, families of the missing passengers can file in Malaysia (because it is the base of operations for the airline), in the country of the victim's residence, or in the country of the victim's intended destination (which is not necessarily Beijing - if the victim had a connecting flight to another country, the family could sue in that country).

That may give an advantage to families who can bypass Chinese and Malaysian courts, like the families of the three American and nine European passengers. "In some countries, fair compensation for the loss of a son may be deemed to be $20,000. In the United States, that may be millions of dollars," Danko said. "That is determined on where you bring suit."

All the passengers' families, though, will have the option to file a suit in the United States against Boeing, the manufacturer of the disappeared 777 jet.

"Usually what happens are family members who are otherwise unable to bring suit against the airline will bring suit against the manufacturer," Danko said. For example, after a flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, crashed, families of the victims filed suit against the US companies that operated the jet and made some of its safety equipment.

But until the plane is found and more is known about the circumstances that brought it down, it would be difficult to prove that families are owed compensation because of a mechanical failure. As with so much else about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the biggest mysteries are yet to be solved.

We are still on square one. 

Balancing the Risk of Flying

A longtime FlyersRights member sent in the following thoughts:
I was in the jumpseat of airliners on a number of occasions. 

Airliners are very complex beasts, lots of things can and do fail, nearly every time I was in the cockpit there was a failure of something, the navigation system for example. Or the trip  began with a note from the previous crew, of some failure on the previous flight, something for mechanics to check later.

Flying carries some risk, in the many times I have been in a plane there were a few incidents that were serious, a stall just after rotation during a departure, a near collision with traffic from one airport on approach to another airport, etc. 

Don't wish for zero risk, even staying home and hiding under your bed has its' risks.

The best we can hope for is to identify risks, decide if they are worth mitigating and if they are then devising mitigation proportional to the risks.
New Start Up Airline: Avatar Airlines

Some may recall in the early 1990's a proposed Las Vegas 747 start-up later reincarnated as  Avatar Airlines.

Now these guys are back again and have refiled with the DOT for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity along with Interstate Scheduled authority.

Utilizing the Avatar Airlines name, Family Airlines Incorporated has relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. The company says that commencing shortly it seeks to establish $300million dollars in private placement funding for the venture allowing it to be sufficiently capitalized.

The CEO Barry Michaels admits he has a "checkered past" and has "paid the price several times over" after spending fifteen months at Nellis Federal Prison for security and tax violations that occurred in 1992.

Avatar's Chief Operating Officer is former TWA Senior Vice President, Marvin Ruthenberg.

Avatar Airlines' Linkedin page says it will be a national ultra low fare airline currently in the certification process. Once certified, Avatar will hire over 2,000 employees during its first year.  

Avatar will use Boeing 747s equipped with 581 seats along with the additional capacity to carry 70,000 lbs of containerized freight. The airline pledges to offer "every day fares as low as $19."

We'd love to hear the watercooler talk at DOT about this one!

Your Letters
After watching one woman holding up boarding while trying to stuff an obviously too large bag in the overhead on a recent SWA flight from SLC to PHX, we welcome more gate restrictions on carry-on bags. The woman clearly exhibited the common definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. A flight attendant repeatedly told the woman that the bag would not fit but she persisted in attempting to get the bag in. Ultimately, she had to check the bag - no cost on SWA anyway so what was the point. And there were others doing the same thing, holding up boarding to the point that push back was 15 minutes late through no fault of SWA.


There will always be passengers who push the limits for carry on bags for overhead storage.  As you point out, Southwest has a generous no bag fee policy for up to two bags, so passengers are not charged extra unless they have three bags and carry on baggage that is clearly too large for overhead storage. 

Flight attendants or gate employees should be politely telling passengers with bags too large for overhead storage that they need to gate check such bags.  

Normally passengers are not charged extra for gate checked bags. They should know when a bag is too big or when due to a full flight there is not enough overhead space that will otherwise delay a flight.

Paul Hudson, Pres.

On a flight 2 months ago on Delta I purchased 2 drinks and noticed the flight attendant swipe my credit card twice. When I questioned her she said machine was not working and she had to run it twice. When I checked my bill there were indeed two charges and the credit card company (American Express) took care of removing one.

This month I have had the same thing happen twice on United, but they are clever in that the duplicate charge appears either 2 or three days later. that has to be intentional.


If this a common or even intentional issue, you should contact your credit card company as well as the US DOT and the airline, as this is a potential fraud as well as an unfair practice. 

I would suggest you mention to the flight attendant that you have been double charged before and get his/her name and ID.  This should make them super careful about this as they could be held responsible.

Paul Hudson, Pres.

You can write letters, e-mails, call or anything else but United does NOT respond to any of them  They have turned into a flying uncaring bus line.  I recently had a minor issue with a bag that caused me grief and the person in charge simply read the rules that United has.  All that does is make me angrier towards the company and its people while the CEO Smisek, doesn't care one bit about the legacy flyers they have.  Perhaps that is the direction our transportation is heading.

Of all US based airlines, United stock has been the worst performer and if it keeps up its current poor service, could be headed for three strikes and out bankruptcy. 


If you contact them again, suggest you mention that you are a FlyersRights.org member, and that unresponsiveness is both a violation of DOT rules and can only result in far more problems.  Also suggest you provide rating or evaluations on consumer web sites that rate travel companies as more and more companies that ignore customer complaints get avoided by other travelers who avoid them like the plague.

Paul Hudson, Pres.

 1 AB7451E 03NOV M JFKDUS*SS2   540P  655A  04NOV T /DCAB /E 
 2 AB6772E 04NOV T DUSNUE*SS2   840A  940A /DCAB /E          
 3 AB8637E 14NOV F BUDTXL*SS2  1040A 1205P /DCAB /E          
 4 AB7248E 14NOV F TXLJFK*SS2   100P  350P /DCAB /E             

(Int'l flight: JFK-Dusseldorf-Nuernberg-Buenos Aires-Berlin-JFK)                                                            
$516.00 in fuel surcharges on a $172.00 airfare!!!! The $516 should be part of the airfare.      

In discussing the growing gap in comfort, treatment and pricing, you need to at least note, if not thoroughly discuss, THE FACT THAT THIS CAN OCCUR LARGELY BECAUSE THE WELL TO DO ARE USUALLY WRITING THEIR LUXURY AIR TRIP COSTS OFF AGAINST THEIR TAXES (as corporations, family trusts and other "entities" used by the wealthy), SO THAT WE ORDINARY "COACH CLASS" TAXPAYERS (who cannot deduct the cost of our steerage flights) ARE PAYING FOR A SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THE COST OF TRANSPORTING OUR "BETTERS". Please discuss this!


Airfares to Europe can have some incredibly high surcharges, taxes and fees that can be up to 200% on top of the airfare.  The US DOT has the authority to regulate such charges but has taken so far the laissez faire position that the "market" will resolve such issues.  In the meantime, airlines flying transatlantic routes have used this to gouge and deceive passengers more and more. These charges also avoid federal taxes so provide airlines with a tax loophole. 

Congress has so far ignored the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights which would fix this problem.  

Suggest you contact personally your US Senators and Congressman as well as their opponents in the 2014 election and demand they respond to the FlyersRights.org Bill of Rights survey.

Such charges represent a larger proportion of fares for coach passengers.  If a first-class passenger is charged the same, this would be fair unless the charge is inflated.  Coach as well as First Class airfares for business purposes are generally tax deductible.  Since first class and business class now costs considerably more than coach, it can be argued that these passengers subsidize coach fares.  On the other hand, many first class seat are actually occupied by "upgraded" passengers who paid coach fares but are frequent flyers. 

Paul Hudson, Pres.

Hey...Just an idea...

Y'all should make T-shirts that say "Flyer's Right's.org".....so we could wear them when we fly, to educate others in the airports, on the flights etc....maybe if people give $10 donation they get a t'shirt or a reusable/imprinted bag we could use for carry on luggage....

Just got back from a cattle fly accross country...insane!!

It would also be interesting to document via phone video how people are treated when they wear the t-shirt or have the bag....hmmm....maybe that would congress attention.

carry on with the good work.


We are looking into to this and hope to have it available next month, but need to get some orders so we know how many to order.  How many would you like?

Paul Hudson, Pres.

Flight time definition should be the same for all airlines. It should be from the time the WOW switch signals the weight is off the wheels until the WOW switch signals the weight is back on the wheels. 
All transport category aircraft have this switch because it is required for maintenance tracking.
This simple definition could level the playing field in many respects.


Airlines generally use the time as from when they pull away from the gate with the door closed till the time they arrive at a gate with the door open which is recorded by the ACARS system and used for flight crew pay.  We agree this should be the same for all airlines.  Using Wheel Up times would tend to be deceptive since it would not include tarmac time that is part of the trip and can be a very significant part.

Paul Hudson, Pres.

Two beefs that should be addressed:  1) There should be a way to get reimbursement from an airline when a fare is reduced before the passenger flies.

2) Waive or reduce the cost of changing a ticket or flight arrangement.  $100-200 is an excessive fee.


1) Some web sites like Orbitz claim to provide passengers with a check for the fare reductions.  Airlines have long established dynamic or yield based (what the market will bear) pricing, so this is a matter of competition and marketing.  As competition is reduced the price reduction/refund is likely to become less and less common.

2)  FlyersRights.org is working on outlawing exorbitant (over 200% of cost contained in our proposed Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0) change and baggage fees that can be up to $500 or more.  This requires however that we have funding for experts as well as examples of exorbitant fees. 

Paul Hudson, Pres.

Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president

FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Passport Insecurity

 Malaysian Flight Points To Loophole In Passport Checks 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The discovery that two passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 used stolen passports indicates a huge vulnerability in aviation security, many news outlets are reporting.

Malaysian officials confirmed the sham passengers bought their tickets through China Southern Airlines, which was code-sharing the flight with Malaysia Airlines.

The Secretary General of international police agency Interpol expressed frustrationthat few of Interpol's 190 member countries search the database and blamedauthorities for "waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."

No authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysian Airline plane took off.

The men used false identities to book flights onward to Europe which means they did not need Chinese visas and avoided the additional scrutiny that comes with visa applications.

FlyersRights demands that foreign countries check Interpol against their manifests to ensure the people on the jets are who they say they are. 
Otherwise it's not safe for Americans to fly there.
The FAA should be downgrading Malaysia's rating for foreign travel until Malaysia begins checking their manifests against Interpol's list of stolen passports. 
Using the Interpol database of stolen passports is considered crucial because it would otherwise be difficult for airline agents to spot altered passports.
 Steve Vickers, the chief executive of a Hong Kong-based security consulting company that specializes in risk mitigation and corporate intelligence in Asia told the NYTimes the presence of at least two travelers with stolen passports aboard a single jet was rare.

"It is fairly unusual to have more than one person flying on a flight with a stolen passport," said Mr. Vickers, who publicly warned a month ago that stolen airport passes and other identity documents in Asia merited a crackdown. "The future of this investigation lies in who really checked in."

Malaysian officials also said five ticketed passengers failed to board the flight but said that their luggage was removed from the plane before it took off. Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said this also was being investigated, but he didn't say whether this was suspicious.

Since the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 in which FlyersRights' president Paul Hudson lost his daughter, verifying the identity of passengers had become fundamental.

Read More: ABCNews Read More: USAToday 
Dreamliner Snags
India On The Warpath Over 787 Problems

India's Director General of Civil Aviation in charge of safety told the Boeing team that the Air India Dreamliners have from induction suffered 44 major engineering snags that are direct manufacturing issues.
There have been nine equipment failures, six landing gear troubles, seven flight control issues, four navigation snags and three windshield cracks. 
Boeing and Air India say that none of these issues have affected the safety of the aircraft or passengers - so far.
Air India is seeking compensation from Boeing for three major problem areas with the Dreamliner - the over-three-year delay in delivery of the aircraft, grounding of the aircraft for four months last year, and for failure to meet "guaranteed performance" standards of fuel consumption as the plane has not proven to be as fuel efficient as it was promised and was the deal-clincher for Air India placing an order for 27 of them.
Carry-on crackdown 

United cracks the whip on bag-size  

United is pulling its hub out of Cleveland Hopkins and now this.

The airline will be cracking down on carry-on bags as of March 1, reports AP

Emails to United Frequent Flyers have gone out outlining the decree.
Bag sizers will peg the offenders and send those criminals with 'oversize' bags back to the ticket counters to pay the check-bagged fee.

No word on what happens when the delay to double back to the ticket counter causes you to miss your flight.   

Some travelers are pointing out this is part of a larger attempt by United to collect more fees. The airline says it's simply trying to speed up the boarding process.

Basically there is no competition from many junk fees among legacy airlines, as the others tend to match any increase started by one airline, as they all benefit.
In a January earnings call, United's chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said the airline hopes to collect an extra $700 million from extras such as baggage fees and the sale of extra legroom during the next four years.

American Airlines asks staff at some of its largest airports "to do an eyeball test on size of carry-ons." The airline has even used tape measures to enforce polices.

Delta said that "during peak times at hubs and larger airports" it has agents near security to look for oversize carry-on bags and has improved technology to check bags faster at gates.

United is going further than other airlines. Its bag sizers (see above pic) have a space for bags going in overhead bins and another for those items going under the seats.
Money Talks

Despite the baggage crackdown with United, you can still receive superstar treatment, for a price.

"At the highest level of service and status, airlines will meet and greet passengers at the curb, provide private screening and whisk them planeside in a sedan car on the ramp," Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "This level of service normally eludes 'you and me' but is now within the grasp of anyone with the swipe of a credit card."

In some cases, Delta will even deliver you to your flight in a Porsche, Sorensen says.

It used to be that airlines reserved kingly treatment for their highest-mileage frequent fliers. Those days have departed and flown off into the sunset.

Delta announced recently that it's changing its frequent-flier program so its biggest spenders get the most rewards.

"If you have the money, you can buy just about whatever you want," said Peggy Fischer, owner of Shooting Star Travels in West Bend, Wis. "And people are becoming way more accepting of that."
The trend shows no signs of slowing.

Look for more airlines to simply use pay-as-you-go, a la carte, methods to seduce more revenue from those willing to buy more perks. Could pay toilets on flights be next? Ireland's Ryanair once toyed with the idea.
Will flying only be available for the well-off? Airline consolidation has not been friendly to the consumer.
The question becomes; How much would it cost to be treated like an actual customer or at the very least, like a human being? At this rate flying will become available only for the well-off.  
Transportation in all forms should be available to all and made affordable.  

Your Letters
We just returned from a vacation in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.  Our United Airlines flight to Pittsburgh had a connection in Newark.

Our flight from Puerto Plata arrived on time in Newark at 5:50PM.  By the time we deplaned, collected our bags, went through Immigration and Customs, and rechecked our bags we missed our connection which departed at 7:00PM.

Having flown internationally before I knew that it was not possible make this connection.  When I made the flight reservations I questioned the reservation agent about this connection and was told that it was a "legal" connection.
This cost me an additional $325 for a hotel room, dinner and breakfast.

My questions are:  What is a "legal" connection?  Who decides what a "legal" connection is?  What do we have to do to prohibit airlines from booking connections that cannot possibly be made in real life?
Who do I write or call about this issue?
Thank you,
When I investigated this for another member, I found that a so called "legal" connection is actually determined by the airport.  I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that 70 minutes is enough time to go through customs and connect at any airport.  Here is United's legal connection chart from their own website that says that the legal connection time at EWR is 90 minutes, so your itinerary is not "legal".  http://www.flyerguide.com/Minimum_Connecting_Times_%28UA%29 . I would complain to the airline, and the DOT atwww.dot.gov/airconsumer
Since this was not a legal connection I would ask United for reimbursement for your expenses.


Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director
 In response to 'Class Dismissed':
Hi! This is a very good story and I agree with you!  I must say, I had the opportunity to fly first class a few times recently. It is not really a luxurious experience.  It's nice, but in truth, it is merely humane!  What all flying should be. The air attendants were nicer but only marginally and not always.  The leg room was BETTER but not amazing. There were no reclining/bed seats!  Those I think are limited to specific air craft and all of them overseas flights.  The bathrooms were closer, but no cleaner.  At least there was food!  But nothing gourmet, that's for sure.

It is a shame that coach has in effect become steerage.  It is like a cattle call from security check point to boarding the plane to the hunt for overhead space to sitting on top of each other.  I have come to accept that I'll never do the travel I hoped to do in my later years because it is such an inhumane experience.  I have no hope for improvement. 

Thank you for all you do to try to help the rest of us.  It's good to know you're there fighting the good fight! 


Dear American,
It saddens me to write, I was just subjected to a flight on an A320, with your "new" American. It was the (so far) single worst flying experience I have had with American. I felt like a sardine, a nuisance to the crew, something required to pay for fuel... the walk through the luxurious first and business class let me know that, as we were all shoved into the back of the plane. The distance from my face to the rear of the seat in front of me was equal to a coffin. and I felt I was in one. The clever rounding of all edges in design has eliminated any sense of space for those of us who are rank and file.
There is no longer customer service, and the insult to the injury - I called to rebook my return on a 767 so I don't vomit from claustrophobic panic on my return, and was told no matter what ticket I purchased now I must pay the 200 dollar change fee.
Where is the airline I have been loyal to and loved for over twenty years? I have many friends who worked for American for years, captain, attendants, all of them quietly shaking their heads when I ask them what has happened.
The best way to describe the "coach passenger" experience is to watch the people drowning in the locked steerage of the movie Titanic. That's how you make us feel now. And I am sorry, and I miss my airline, and I will find another just for a change. I look forward to the demise of whatever business model this is, so I can once again travel on American.
Best, NB

Dear Senator Isakson,

Thank you for making your e-mail address accessible. I have been involved with the Flyer's Rights group minimally as I quit flying over thirteen years ago due to feeling like a cow in a dirty barn when I stepped on an airplane. Being a schoolteacher I couldn't afford first class. Upon entering the Atlanta Airport the traffic police would harass drivers at the terminal trying to pick up or drop off passengers. Going through security even then was humiliating. That was nearing the time I retired from my professorship at UGA, so travel was becoming less important for me, even though I was frequently invited to lecture and conduct workshops around the country. Universities and museums do not reimburse first-class tickets so I merely declined invitations. I don't understand why it's taken the general population this long to demand change. It should be obvious to Congress that a growing number of voters are totally fed up with the results of de-regulation, re-definition of bribery 'lobbying' and the resulting economic melt-down that broke the backs of the working class and made the rich richer. 

So what do we get next? How about excessive and often fraudulent charges by phone companies, both the reorganized and strengthened AT&T monopoly, Verizon, Satellite TV and cable providers and then there are all the Googles and Apples and anything connected to  internet providers, those that sell virtual data to the unemployed and the working class who have already paid for the infrastructure to deliver many times over. Beyond renting what we have already paid for are the new fees for billing. This all is leading to what is not going to be pretty. How much is spent on homeland security to protect the gated communities? That's a really convoluted use of tax money, collected mostly from those that don't live in one, while education is being under-funded. Charter schools for special people are being run by corporations paid with tax money. Most teachers took more courses in education than they did in the subject they are teaching. That can and should be fixed, but would end the apathy and ignorance in this country.

Further, both the Democratic and Republican parties have divided the country, families and neighbors by blaming everything on the other party. That takes the heat off the corporations, who are becoming bolder every day with less service at more cost. Morality has been lost and replaced with greed. Can anyone stand up in Washington and fight for the future of all the children, not just the blessed few of the greed-eating pigs? I don't personally know of one college graduate that has gotten a real job in the last five years. My daughter hasn't and none of her friends, nor none of my friend's children who have graduated from UGA have gotten jobs other than part-time at minimum wage. So, Senator Isakson, you have a great opportunity to give the citizens hope that there are still honest and good people making important decisions in this country. Even faking it better would be helpful. Please read this article as this is just the beginning of real dissent in our country.


By allowing the "base price" to be advertised instead of the "all in price" consumers will no longer be able to easily price shop for air transportation, as 
taxes, surcharges and fees added onto the base fare amount to 20% to 200% of so called base airfares. This bill is really the Air transportation Cost Concealment and Deception bill. 

Consumers can and should be able to see all detail of air transportation charges, which they can now, but the consumer primarily wants to know their all-in expense rather than the breakdown of how the expense is divided between airlines, government and others. 

Paul Hudson

Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president

FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

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We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.