Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Win-Lose Situation
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The airlines' pity party is long over. 

The big news last week was the nation's airlines announcing yet another stellar quarter of record breaking profits, reaped at your expense.
For four years we've watched the industry rolling in dough thanks to its winning strategy of mergers, cutting flights and raising fares.
Passengers are also forking over 1,200 percent more in fees now than they did seven years ago.
Fewer Routes, Service Cuts, Packing Planes = Profit$ Up

Airlines have eliminated thousands of flights, especially short-haul flights using smaller planes. These years of cuts in air service boosted profits as it curtailed traveler choice and hurt some local economies.

Airlines began cutting flights years ago to stuff more people onto planes. But that's not the main reason for their big profits today. Inflated ticket prices due to mergers, frequent-flyer program cuts, contracting out labor, no frills and fees, fees, fees seems to be the formula for success.
Reduced competition at smaller airports often causes fares to rise. The DOT regularly cites Huntsville airport as having the highest average domestic faresamong the top 100 airports the department tracks, with round-trip fares averaging $559 in the third quarter of last year. The national average was $390.
Airline stocks Hit A 52-Week High, UAL Initiating A $1 Billion Buy Back
However, few were expecting the airlines' 2Q to be this great.

Their record profits last Thursday yielded unexpected stock buy-backs, a rare dividend and even bonuses for some workers.

The airlines are prospering as mergers have reduced competition, making it easier to keep prices high and raise billions from extra fees.

They used bankruptcy to squeeze costs from employees and suppliers such as the smaller carriers that operate regional flights.

So, what are the odds the airlines will generously share their largess and pass along the savings to you? 

"It would seem unlikely that airlines will reduce airfares because of high profits, rather the contrary appears more likely. Since 2010 airfares and fees have been increasing far higher than the rate of inflation, and due to airline mergers, profits and airline stock prices have soared over 100%", said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.

"With four airlines (Southwest, American, Delta and United) now controlling 85% of domestic flights, joint ventures and alliances exempt from antitrust laws, and US airlines keeping foreign carriers out of the US, competition is becoming a thing of the past," Hudson said. 
So? Just buy airline stock and be happy!
Complaints rise 
Consumer complaints to the Department of Transportation surged by one-fifth last year.
"The way airlines have taken 130-seat airplanes and expanded them to 150 seats to squeeze out more revenue I think is finally catching up with them, says Dean Headley, a business professor at Wichita State University.
Fortunately, consumers have a number of new rights as well as a right to complain, both to the airline and to the government. 
Please do not hesitate to report an airline at: http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint. 
Press Release:
BBC News

FlyersRights.org, the largest US based airline passenger organization, in light of the shoot down of the MH 17 flight over eastern Ukraine, has called on all airlines to provide passengers on international flights with detailed route maps on their web sites, so passengers can decide for themselves whether to take such high risk flights.

Paul Hudson, the group's president and longtime member of the FAA and TSA advisory committees on aviation safety and security stated:
"Airlines should no longer be able to hide behind weak and ambiguous international regulation and confidential warnings that are not shared with passengers. After the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, it came to light that governments and airlines had received specific warnings of a likely bombing, but chose to hide this knowledge from passengers and flight crews, those actually at risk. Now it has been revealed that some airlines were flying over eastern Ukraine despite danger warnings that were not shared with passengers.

Today, despite known dangers and the MH 17 shoot down, passengers are not being informed of dangerous flights over or near numerous conflict zones with missile systems capable of shooting down commercial airliners at over 30,000 feet. 

In addition to high-risk areas like Ukraine and Russia, many other regions across the globe have airspace that is considered equally dangerous, including Syria, Iraq, Egypt-Sinai, the China Sea, North Korea, Libya, Yemen, Mali and the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Many of these highly conflicted areas are known to have anti-aircraft weapons deployed that are capable of downing virtually any commercial aircraft.
This week, an emergency meeting of the UN International Civil Aeronautics
Organization (ICAO) is being held to discuss the situation, but passenger representatives have unfortunately again been excluded from meetings between airlines and regulators, as they were previously after the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian airliner over the Indian Ocean."
DOT Fines Jumped
Within 3 Years of FlyersRights' Rules
Screenshot of Southwest Fare Alerts. The airline has been DINGED several times by DOT for sale fare ad violations.

In October 2013, Southwest ran a television ad on eight networks in the Atlanta area advertising $59 sale fares to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago on certain dates.  

An investigation by DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office revealed that Southwest did not have any seats available for $59 between Atlanta and any of the three quoted cities on any of the applicable travel dates.

Unfair and deceptive practices, such as advertising fares that don't exist, are the most common violation of passenger rights by the airlines, according to three years of U.S. Department of Transportation citation records.
An L.A. Times report found the most common citation for unfair and deceptive practices was not disclosing the full fare for a flight, including taxes. This is the DOT rule that the airlines are currently lobbying ferociously to throw out.

Also, only about half the fines imposed by the DOT were collected, with the balance either suspended or directed to be used to improve airline services. 

Many airlines have repeated violations, which critics say show that fines don't fix bad behavior and inflict little pain on an industry that generated $4 billion for the three months ending June 30, 2014.

"In the case of multiple violations, the fines should be greater and they shouldn't be waived," said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org. "They should increase exponentially."

Last week's newsletter, Over Hostile Territory, erroneously reported that KLM was a member of the oneworld alliance, and that's how Malaysia Airlines flew under KLM's flight number. 
KLM is only a member of SkyTeamHowever, they are regular code-share partners with Malaysia Airlines.
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Thank you.

Kate Hanni, founder 
with Paul Hudson, President

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Region Need No Compensation
(We Don't Need No Education -Pink Floyd)
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Mesa Airline's CEO is "disgusted with Washington's politics."  

That's the sentiment from CEOs of regional carriers, as US pilot shortages take its toll on the industry.

Pilots finally are taking a stand. Fewer pilots want to work for regional jet companies because it's near impossible to survive on the pay. Between regulations, attrition, pending shortage, and over 80% of the US regional pilots rejecting contracts, the leverage is on the pilots side for the first time in decades. 
So the Regional Airline Association (RAA) is in a frenzy. Last month they testified at the House Aviation Subcommittee that passenger service to midsize airports would suffer and the economic impact will be felt across the country.  
Already we're seeing this at midsize airports such as Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where United is cutting 60 percent of its departures.

"We have made the difficult decision to reduce our flying from Cleveland", Mr. Smisek said to United's workers there in February. By June 1, Cleveland will have lost 70 of its average 170 daily departures from the airport.

Mr. Smisek said that "our continued losses in Cleveland" were the main reason for the reduction in flying there. But added, new federal safety regulations that impose higher training standards on entry-level pilots "are reducing the pool of new pilots from which regional carriers themselves can hire."

Meanwhile, Mr. Smisek saw his compensation soar to $14.7 million following the United-Continental merger.

The hand-wringing continued at the RAA convention in St. Louis last week. Here are some highlights from Mesa Airlines' CEO: 
- Blamed Congress for the "One Level of Safety" rule, requiring most Part 135 regional carriers in the U.S. to operate under more stringent Part 121 maintenance rules.

- Blamed unions and the greediness of captains for low entry-level pay.
- Claimed "race to the bottom" is offensive to him and not true.
- Says young pilots are going to Europe to fly with minimal hours and asks if it is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for us?
FlyersRights listened to the whole April 30th, 2014 Hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee, US House of Representatives re. Air Service to Smaller Communitits. Here are our points: (official statement link)

1. No passenger representative was allowed to testify, only airline, pilot union, airport and government reps. 

2. The airline rep claimed they tried to raise wages but the union would not let them, and sought to weight wages to senior pilot favor based only on seniority.
We suggest this can be solved with a minimum wage for airline pilots.

3. Big Airlines seek to force passengers to fly from their hubs even if it means driving 100+ miles or taking an expensive commuter flight to a hub.

4. Regional carriers can profitably fly nonstop point to point from smaller cites with regional jets holding 20-80 passengers but are inhibited from doing so because they are under contract and controlled by big carriers and lack access to big city airports. Solution is to make such anticompetitive contracts illegal and to establish national air transportation policy of all passengers not having to drive more than 80 miles to reach a network airport and build additional airports around choke point big cities like NYC and Chicago. 

5. Establish a fact-finding commission to determine why the number of 
fights is declining dramatically at double digit rates for medium as well as 
small cities.

Republic Airways Chairman, President and CEO Bryan Bedford also complained that the FAA's new 1,500 hour First Officer Qualification rule has sparked a pilot shortage: "We cautioned lawmakers and regulators, throughout the lawmaking and regulatory process that including a largely inflexible andarbitrary flight-hour experience requirement as part of the final mandate would not only fail to improve safety, it would hasten the growing pilot shortage and imperil air service at communities across the country."

Who's Flying The Plane?

These new federal regulations were drafted in response to concerns over training and pilot-fatigue following the 2009 Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people. The regional model has killed itself through bad business practices. The new laws aren't the reason for the pilot shortage, it's 10 years of paying food stamp wages.
Rebecca Shaw, 24, the co-pilot of that flight had pulled an all-nighter to get a free transcontinental trip to work. She was living near Seattle and commuting to her job at Colgan's operation in Newark, according to board investigators. She flew from Seattle to Memphis in a spare seat on one FedEx jet, and to Newark on another, planning to sleep in a crew lounge. She earned an annual salary of just $16,200.
Remember Candi Kubeck, the captain of ValuJet 592 that crashed in the Everglades in 1996 (110 people died)? Her salary was in the low $20's. Then ValuJet became AirTran and everyone forgot.

In 2008 the FAA opened an investigation into whether two Go! airline pilots fell asleep during a flight from Honolulu to Hilo when they overshot the airport by 15 miles.    

Region For The Bottom

"I really get a little disgusted listening to these guys, politicians, talk about 'race to the bottom' because if we are in a race to the bottom, you know who we're going to find down there? Congress," said Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of Mesa Airlines at the RAA Convention . "It's really offensive to me, as a 25-year veteran of this industry, and my people." 

Mr. Ornstein has enjoyed a remarkable longevity thanks to an ability to exploit a large pool of cheap young pilots. Mesa, like the entire regional airline industry, relied on rock bottom wages and a high turnover rate to keep the salary structure low and the system afloat. Now the whole fiasco is blowing-up before their eyes and Congress is turning a deaf ear in the wake of Colgan 3407.
The regional CEOs shifting the blame to the unions and captains for the problems their businesses are facing is offensive. The regional jet CEOs want you to think airports are losing air service because of the 1,500 hour rule, and they are the victims

All this pressure for less than a 1500 hour First Officer Qualification is a ploy by the airlines to try to see if they can avoid paying for more experienced pilots. We already know that there is more risk with low-time pilots living in crash pads for barely more than minimum wage.  

It's interesting that almost no regional had any motivation to raise wages when they could hire 300-500 hour pilots at starvation wages. Now that the laws of supply and demand have kicked in, it seems like Mr. Ornstein would like to re-write this law.
Well, by the same token, who needs an MBA to run a company?

Where's The FAA Here?  

FAA chief Michael Huerta said he stands firm on his agency's first officer qualifications requirements. He said:

"We broadened that flexibility as much as we could in an effort to address industry concerns," explained Huerta. "But Congress's intent was clear. They wanted to increase the qualification and experience requirements for pilots. We're open to discussing ideas on strengthening the pilot pipeline, but industry must recognize that the FAA alone cannot solve this issue."

FAA Under Industry Control   
In the sixties the president of the company was paid three times what a senior captain made. It took four pilots to fly a 707 across the ocean carrying 120 passengers. Today 2 pilots fly 400 people and yet their salaries (adjusted for inflation) have declined significantly. CEO's now make multi-millions.

Interestingly the highest paid pilots are at Southwest which has the lowest paid CEO, the best safety record in the industry and the only major carrier who hasn't sought bankruptcy protection.
Pilots' pay, as a percentage of operating cost of a large airplane, is relatively minor. Expecting action from the FAA is hopeless. 
Congress needs to take a hard look at the FAA, a federal agency that has always seemed to be in bed with the industry it's supposed to oversee.

Organized insanity is what happens when money and profits overtake reason. 

Public Demand    

We disagree with those who say the public demands cheap flights, thus the underpaid and exhausted commuter pilots.  

The traveling public may 'demand' a lot of things, but 'public opinion' should not jeopardize the safety of those aboard and those on the ground. This is a 'free' country, but that does not translate to common sense and regulation being thrown aside.    
Bring back regulation to all of these entities that have proven they cannot act in the public interest, cannot run the companies without government oversight, and certainly cannot police themselves.  
(In Response to last Tuesday's newsletter, "Not Fare")

Dear FlyersRights:

On your article, while I completely agree with everything you have noted,
you forget that back in 1975, they paid travel agents 10% commission on all airline tickets.  Domestic, international, foreign origin, everything.
We receive a big fat zero today especially on domestic markets.  Only on some international markets do we receive a commission depending on the contract.
So, yes, we are so much worse off now than then as travelers and travel agents.

I live in Vienna a I only have a minute between flights but I have to pause for a moment and comment on this last post on FlyersRights.org. It seems every time you post you come full throttle at the airlines. As a pilot, I know what a reduction in pay means and what losing more than half your hard earned retirement is like. I also know what is like to have the airline you are flying for go under and watch as your fellow workers go through the hard times that being unemployed brings. Airlines have to make a profit in order to survive.

When you demonize the airlines for trying to keep the cost of air travel down with low cost air fares that are meant to peel away certain cost that not everyone wants to pay for, that's just wrong. Not everyone packs three bags for a five day stay when traveling. When you travel regularly you learn to travel light and less is better when traveling often. I speak with passengers every day and by far most of them are satisfied with the cost of their airfare. They realize if you want that additional legroom or more comfort when you fly you must pay for it. And ticket change charges are here to stay and all airlines post these charges on their web sights. Stop crying about the cost. If you want first class, pay the airfare!

Also, the cost profiles that you have posted are not true and fair representations of cost verses inflation rates over the past 40 years, 1975 to 2014. You fail to figure in the cost of equipment and maintenance increases over the last 40 years. Cost that have increased five fold and mainly due to the unions involved in manufacturing new generation airliners. When the design and testing of a new airliner these days cost between ten and fifteen billion dollars over a typical six year period, those cost get passed along to the consumer. These billions are spent even before the first plane is delivered. Push these cost into the price of a ticket and of course you will pay more for that ticket.

I don't mind when people have legitimate complaints due to poor service but to complain about the cost of an airline ticket and charges for extra legroom or other services is basically ridiculous. As with everything else in life you get what you pay for and the more you want the more you will pay. And deregulation was by far the best thing to ever happen to the airline industry. We don't need government to hold our hand or protect us from ourselves. We're adults and no one forces anyone to pay for a product or a service that we choose to purchase or may not wish to purchase. Buying an airline ticket is no different than buying fuel, professional services, food, clothing, electronics, automobiles or any other consumer product. You don't get a BMW when you pay for Hyundai.

No one wants to be on time more than I do. But my main concern is the safety of everyone behind me. If it means holding at the gate while I have a concern on the flight deck checked then we all wait, not just the guy in seat E-34 who just blew a gasket of his own and now wants the airline to compensate  him some way.

And like I tell everyone who complains about the airlines making a profit, stop complaining and buy you some stock in Delta!

ATP, Captain
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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Over Hostile Territory
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The shooting down of MH17 was a wake up call.
A paramedic walks by a part of fuselage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine.

It called attention to the fact that commercial airliners fly over conflict zones and that codesharing means passengers may not be aware of the airline they're flying on when they book a flight.

Many people are asking: What was an airliner doing flying over a war zone? 

Technically, MH17 was flying where it was supposed to, which indicates a larger failure.

Taking A Gamble

Three hundred planes were scheduled to fly over Ukraine on the day MH17 was shot down, despite warnings to airlines about 'serious risks to safety'. 

On May 3rd, the FAA issued a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) prohibiting flight operations in Ukrainian airspace "over the Crimean Peninsula and the associated Ukrainian territorial sea, as well as international airspace managed by Ukraine over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov."

Experts questioned Malaysia's choice to fly near the fighting, when some airlines had been circumventing the country for weeks after warnings from authorities. That list included British Airways, Qantas, Korean Air, Asiana and all U.S. carriers. 
Aviation experts said that the reason some airlines continued to fly over Ukraine despite the warnings were because it offered a shorter route that saved fuel. Malaysian officials denied that was their motive.
Joshua Marks, CEO of aviation-data firm masFlight, calculated that flying over Ukraine instead of around the country saved Malaysia Airlines up to $1,500 per flight in fuel, or 2 percent, and shaved about 10 minutes off the trip.
KLM said in a statement it "avoids flying over the concerned territory". FlyersRights asked KLM whether this is an old or new policy. The airline did not return our call for comment. 
We are forced to wonder whether those doomed passengers would still be alive today if they had chosen to fly on KLM and not Malaysia Airlines.

Codeshare Confusion
How many passengers were traveling on KLM tickets? 
KLM's primary codeshare partner on this route is Malaysia. Few travelers bother to check the fine detail of their flight and who is operating it.

What responsibility does a codeshare airline have for its ticketed passengers - some of whom are traveling unknowingly on airplanes serviced and operated by vastly different companies?

Huge Threat to Aviation

What about possible threats to airliners overflying Iraq and Syria? It's already known that ISIS terrorists have captured all kinds of equipment, but what if they can get their hands on anti-aircraft systems?

And what about Pakistan? How high is the risk of anti-aircraft systems getting captured by the Taliban in certain areas?

It's a huge threat to aviation, especially because it would leave so many air routes in danger of being blocked off. If you were to put a no-fly zone across Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Gaza and whatever other trouble spots that may come up, it would severely limit Europe-Asian routes.  

Remarks from FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson:

"Many people don't realize that flying to Southeast Asia, China, etc. from Europe often means flights over Russia or former Soviet states or the Middle East. With conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, and Afghanistan this is becoming much more dangerous.

Modern missiles possessed by many nations can easily shoot down commercial airliners flying at 30,000+ feet, accidentally or on purpose (e.g. the USS Vincennes shooting down an Iranian Airliner over the Persian Gulf in July 1988, that many think resulted in the retaliation bombing of Pan Am 103 in December killing over 550 total).
Tensions and conflicts are growing rapidly worldwide. Even from the Western US, flying to Asia often involves routes near North Korea and the China Sea where tensions and military confrontations between China, Japan, Vietnam and the US are growing.
The post-Cold War, Pax America era of the 1990s and 2000s is breaking down as the US retreats, Russia reasserts itself in Eastern Europe, South America, the Arctic and elsewhere, China now claims the entire South China Sea as its domain, and the Middle East is in turmoil and war. 
The shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane with nearly 300 people on board over war-torn eastern Ukraine is likely to have profound consequences for the world's airlines.
The main point for passengers should be the ability to protect themselves from unwittingly flying over conflict zones. The right to know the airline you are actually flying on and the route the flight is taking requires that the DOT act to require this disclosure. 

Had it been disclosed to the MH17 (KLM codeshare KL4103) passengers that they would be flying over eastern Ukraine where several military planes have been shot down, many might have declined to fly on this flight. 
Such disclosures to passengers would likely cause such flights to be rerouted or canceled."
By Friday, snapshots from flight-tracking services showed dense traffic to the west of Ukraine, light traffic over western Russia, and very few planes over Ukraine.

U.S. airlines abandoned the international flying zone over the Eastern Ukraine when war escalated in Eastern Europe months ago, but unfortunately Malaysia Airlines continued to use this air route. 
Eastern Ukraine is a conflict zone where surface to air missiles have been in use since April. The world did not respond to this situation, thinking that this is a conflict involving only Russia, The European Union and the United States.
Should Malaysia Be Allowed To Operate An Airline? 
Much was written about the Malaysian government following the loss of MH370, described as a case study in government incompetence and insularity. 
There's no margin for mistakes for Malaysia post-MH17, warned a Bloomberg columnist. The Malaysian government cannot afford to make any mistakes in its response to the shooting down of MH17, even though it is not to blame for the tragedy which killed 298 people, said journalist William Pesek. 
He noted that the national carrier was already the target of jokes by international air travelers.
"This company had already become a macabre punch line, something no business can afford in the Internet and social-media age," said Pesek.
Malaysia has come under an unusual global spotlight, with pressure from foreign media and governments exposing widespread poor management.

The Airlines' Special Interest Legislation

Don't you love it when bills come with names that imply they do the opposite of what they actually do? 

Making its way through Congress is H.R. 4156, the "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014" that would only reduce price transparency.  

FlyersRights, along with other major consumer groups have sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging them to reject the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014.

Your Letters

(Letters to FlyersRights.org may be published in edited form without further notice with names and contact info protected, unless writer marks the letter, "Not For Publication".)

In response to last week's newsletter: 

Dear FlyersRights:

Generally speaking, I am OK with vendors separating their costs from taxes as this tends to keep taxes in check. Case in point: most european countries have creeped up their sales tax to 21% by burying it in the retail price.

However there should be transparency in cost, for example if a fare is $100 and unavoidable taxes are $60, they should be displayed on an equivalent footing: no asterisks, as you say, and same type size. Eg Fly to Orlando for $100 plus $60 in taxes. Or better: Fly to Orlando for $160, includes (snack, pillow and) $60 in taxes.

I appreciate your eagle eye on the way the airlines price tickets.  Next you need to center the cross hairs on the auto rentals at the airports that advertise $34 a day for a car that cost $74 by the time all the "extra fees" and 3 or 4 taxes are applied.  The rental companies quote a bare bones price and then add things like a portion of the registration fee, the airport concession fee, the shuttle cost to the rental lot, etc.  The cities, counties and states don't like to raise taxes on their citizens but they are good at passing them on to the traveling public.


It never ceases to amaze how lacking airlines and rental car companies are when it comes to disclosure of charges.   

I agree, DP, it does seem like a double standard, going after the airlines,
but the airlines occupy a unique space in American commerce. They can't be sued in state courts because of federal rulings, so the DOT is the only bulwark against any unfair or deceptive business practices.  

While it's true that hotels and car renters are also adept at promoting "teaser" rates that don't immediately disclose the full cost the customer will pay, the anti-transparency act doesn't deal with that issue, which is in the Federal Trade Commission's jurisdiction. Also, airlines don't compete for customers with hotels and car-rental companies. It's more likely that they are marketing partners, promoting each other's services on their websites.

Airline pricing is probably one of the most confusing consumer products, where the price can swing wildly within a week, day, or hour.

While this pricing makes sense to the airlines for yield management, it is extremely consumer unfriendly and very hard for consumers to understand. Almost no other product in the world is priced this way.

You could argue the airlines brought this on themselves; when you nickel and dime consumers to death, you're bound to eventually get attention. We've now reached a point where airlines are trying to sell tickets for $9, but then dumping $100 in "optional" fees on top of that fare. 

Kendall Creighton
Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
 The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

FlyersRights.org depends on your 
tax-dedcutible contribution. 
Thank you.

Kate Hanni, founder 
with Paul Hudson, President

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Friday, July 18, 2014

FlyersRights Calls on Airlines to Lose the Asterisk
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Last week, FlyersRights called on House Members to put the brakes on H.R. 4156 - the deceptively titled "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014".

The bill is backed by the airline industry, with the goal of putting the asterisk back in airfares.

It would undo our Full Fare Advertising Rule passed in 2012 by the Department of Transportation (DOT), that requires airlines to advertise the full cost of a ticket, including taxes and fees levied by airport authorities and federal, state and local governments.

As it's written, the bill would allow airlines to report a base fare, then separately disclose the full cost of the ticket. Such as, Airfares From Only $1!*

The president of the American Society of Travel Agents, Zane Kerby, said the bill "would allow airlines to deceive travelers about the actual cost of a flight."

"The airlines challenged the rule in court and lost, then tried the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. Congress should stay its hand here," Kerby said. "There is no evidence of consumer harm under the DOT rule, only benefits for the traveling public."

The bill was passed out of Committee in April without any hearings, debate or opportunity for consumer or travel industry stakeholders to inform Congress of their views and the flaws in this bill. This contentious legislation would harm consumers by reversing a DOT rule implemented in 2012 to stop misleading airline advertising.

House Members should reject this Rules Suspension scheme and insist on proper deliberation of this anti-consumer legislation.

Most of the bill's 
cosponsors are members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and many also are among the top recipients of campaign contributions from the airline industry, according to opensecrets.org.

Bill Shuster (R-PA) has received $195,750 from the air transport industry (the most of any member of Congress); ranking Democrat Nick Rahall of West Virginia has received $62,500; and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reported  $121,721 in airline industry contributions during this election cycle.

Does the phrase "bought and paid for" come to mind? 

FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson, said "Pay-to-Play" appears to be alive and well. It is not illegal for members of Congress to accept campaign contributions from special interests and then sponsor their legislation unless there is a quid pro quo, but members who then seek to shut out public input for controversial anti-consumer legislation have crossed another ethical if not legal line."
Sardine Airlines 
(or, Ben Hur Airlines)
How far will the airline industry go to squeeze in more passengers per plane? 
Airbus has filed a patent for a new kind of economy seats which makes passengers sit on something akin to a bicycle saddles.
As if coach seats were not already horrible. Would you pay to fly on a bike seat?  
The so-called saddle seating would allow the airline to fit far more passengers into flights lasting 'a couple of hours'.
The diagram appears to have forgotten each passenger's assigned galley oars and a drummer providing the beat.
When the seats are not in use, the would flip up to create more space in the cabin. 

Each of the bicycle seats is fastened to a vertical bar, and the seats retract to increase space when not in use. 

Airbus calculates that the traveling public will accept this reduced level of comfort since most flights are relatively short.   

And they're going to pass any cost savings on to you .....

Maximizing the discomfort of economy class serves to increase the sales of the overpriced "upgrade" tickets. Thus, the point of these seats is not only to maximize the number of sardines crammed into the tin, but also to increase the number of business and 1st class seats sold. 

This is why you need FlyersRights and the protection of government regulations!


Customer files lawsuit against Expedia after paying $650 in surprise bag fees
A customer is suing Expedia after paying $650 round-trip for his family of four's luggage after the online travel agency claimed the first checked bag would be free with the airfare purchase.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, was filed in King County Superior Court last week. The suit also alleges that Expedia was deceptive by offering a discount for making a purchase from its mobile application, but then ultimately not delivering the discount.

The suit alleges that the customer "was falsely promised by Expedia that he would receive a 5% discount on his airfare purchase, and was falsely promised airfare for which there would be 'no fee' for first checked baggage."

Your Letters

(Letters to FlyersRights.org may be published in edited form without further notice with names and contact info protected, unless writer marks the letter, "Not For Publication".)

Dear FlyersRights:

Here is an interesting news item from the Sunday Times, dated July 13th, regarding the grounding of three Air India Dreamliners in a single week.

One in Sydney on Thursday because of a landing gear snag - it would have been unable to retract its wheels after take-off. Engineers and spare parts were to arrive on Friday, but the delay would be for two to three days.

One in Hong Kong last Monday when the Dreamliner sprang an oil leak. It was still in Hong Kong as of Sunday. 

Last Saturday, in Delhi, another Boeing 787 had trouble with its braking assembly, and the unfortunate passengers spent hours inside the plane. 

Delhi has yet to see the monsoon; it must have been incredibly hot.

I wonder what happened to these passengers? Were they made to wait for hours, as we were on 2nd July at Heathrow?

Were they made to sit in the plane for hours, as we were, while the crew told us the snag would be rectified in a few minutes. 

We were finally off-loaded, but got the same statement. Reached a hotel at midnight, with no food. Our plane arrived in Mumbai 30 hours late. 

My son returned from England on Air India B 787 (AI 130) on 9th July, which was delayed for several hours due to a 'technical snag'. The plane took off with no lights in the passenger section other than the emergency lights, no entertainment, and cold food as the ovens were not working. I wonder just how legal it was to fly passengers under such conditions. He said there was no information given, no explanations, and of course no offer of compensation. I do hope some of those passengers complain.

I now see that Air India has joined Star Alliance. 

I wonder if this will improve matters. Or is it just another way to fool passengers into believing the airlines really care about their passenger?

Unless passengers start complaining and asserting their right to decent treatment, they will get the treatment they have, sadly, come to expect. But should we expect to be treated as if we don't matter? Should we, as my agent suggested, upgrade to business class so we get seats comfortably wide and spaced further apart, although at a huge cost? And will this prevent AI from bluffing that they will take off shortly when they know it will be several hours, if not longer? I don't think so.

This is what we want:
  • Airlines should communicate to passengers the reason for delay, clearly and frequently, giving the true estimated time needed for repairs.
  • If the airline knows repairs will take several hours, passengers should be given the option of changing to another airline. 
  • Passengers should get their baggage back. If you are going on holiday you don't want to wait several days while your bags catch up with you. 
Even if you are going home, you don 't want to make a couple of trips to your airport - which may be distant - to find out if your bags have arrived. You want your baggage with you. Few of us can carry a change of clothes and other necessities in our hand baggage. 
  • If passengers opt to stay with the airline they should get food and accommodation if needed without having to scream for it. 
  • Passengers should be given a lounge with seating, decent facilities for food, access to toilets, and facilities for children and the elderly, who have special needs of their own.  
They should not be left standing around wondering what happens next, and afraid to go to the rest-room in case they miss an announcement. 

Acquiring the Boeing 787 seems to have been a huge mistake. It has been plagued with problems from inception, and all the gimmicks of darkening windows and self-flushing toilets will not change the fact that this aircraft was a bad buy. The Dreamliner has become a nightmare, and passengers would be well advised to avoid booking flights on this aircraft. 

There is a rumour that eight of Air India's fleet of Dreamliners are being used for spares.... obviously I can't verify this. 
And if you go to their Facebook page it is full of praises for the new airliner...a lot of them (if not all) seem to be AI employees! 

Perhaps a prerequisite for being employed by AI. I hope not. 

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