Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nontract Of Carriage
Airline Contracts Of Carriage Fail To Protect Passengers

December 16, 2015 
Being an airline means never having to say you're sorry. 

As some of you know, when you buy a ticket on an airline, you're really agreeing to a contract with that airline called the Contract of Carriage. Also known in legal terms as a 'contract invitation', or 'take it or leave it'.

And without some regulation otherwise, the airlines can pretty much say or do whatever they want in these contracts.

They've recently gone beyond the normal things, and now getting into redefining terms like Acts of God. A term which previously meant bad weather, or war or something similar.

Now, some airlines have reclassified their contracts to say Acts of God includes shortages of maintenance equipment or crew, which were considered their responsibility previously. 

The other thing FlyersRights is watching in these contracts is that they don't inform passengers of some very basic rights they have - for instance, compensation for delays.

Most people don't realize that since 2003 you've had the right to get compensation for delays on International flights or International trips as outlined in the Montreal Convention and the EU.

Even if the delay occurs in the US and that amount runs up to $2600. But you will never know that from reading these contracts or even from going on the DOT website. We are asking the FAA to require that some basic consumer information be included in these contracts.

Before 1978, US airlines suffering delays or flight cancellations were obligated to offer transportation on a competitor's next flight if it would get the passenger to their destination quicker. Airlines were even required to put economy-class passengers in first class seats, if those were the only seats available.

This rule, called Rule 240, was ordered by the now-closed 
Civil Aeronautics Board and was incorporated in all airlines' contracts of carriage. The only omision was for the term, 'Act of God', which was given to each airline to define. It was unclear which god an airline would say was at fault for failure to have enough maintenance staff, (Loki or Coyote, both known to be trickster gods.)

Are you traveling overseas this holiday season? Very few people are taking advantage of flight delay compensation as outlined by the Montreal Convention and the EU.

The treaty provides for up to $2,600 for flight delays on international trips.  In fact, FlyersRights calculates that it's well over a billion dollars in lost compensations by people who didn't know their rights.

The treaty also provides that it's on a modified no fault basis. So the burden of proof is on the airlines to prove that they took all reasonable steps to avoid the delay.

Also, there are delay compensation rights if you're flying to or within Europe. Again, the airlines will not tell you about this and neither will the Department of Transportation.

Business travel writer Joe Brancatelli is right when he says that being an airline means never having to give you the seat for which you paid. It means never having to fly on time. It means not having to get you home if it strands you halfway around the world. Being an airline means never even having to fly you to the city that appears on the ticket you purchased. Actually, being an airline means never having to fly aircraft - which pretty much means you're not even an airline.

Welcome to the new Titanic

In previous columns we've called the cheapest seats on the plane 'Last Class' instead of coach because passengers are made to feel like a third or fourth class citizens from the moment they book until they flee the airport. 

However, a better term may be "no class" or "classless" - and also keep a lookout for "pet class", where customers travel in cargo with the animals. Pet food included!

An incident that changed history was back in 2010 when six passengers on a Russian airline Tatarstan Airlines were forced to stand in the aisles for their entire flight after the wrong airplane - one with too few seats- showed up at the airport. The flight was between Antalya, Turkey and Ekaterinburg, Russia. It was meant to be on a 148-seat Boeing 737. Instead a 142-seat 737 showed up at the gate.

Passengers were given a choice: wait seven hours for the next plane or spend the whole flight standing up. It was a five-hour flight, and apparently did not breach any Russian safety regulations. When the plane hit turbulence, the standing passengers sat on the floor. This incident led to Ryanair and China's Spring Airline to consider vertical seating.

Suddenly, bundling yourself into a cardboard box and getting shipped via UPS doesn't look so bad.

Read more about FlyersRights' proposed Passenger Bill of Rights re. contract of carriage.

'Tis Better To Give Than Receive

A BIG THANKS to all of you who generously donated to FlyersRights over the past year.  You aren't merely supporting our mission, you've become a part of FlyersRights.

While Congress is on vacation and the President is in Hawaii, be assured FlyersRights is on duty.

Tired of those warnings that your frequent flyer miles are going to expire?
You can gift them to FlyersRights.

Pledge to donate your miles to our volunteer staffers who need to travel for meetings, etc.

Please contact FlyersRights' president Paul Hudson at to donate.

Double Your Tax Benefits By Donating Appreciated Stock

If you traditionally give cash at year end, consider this: higher tax rates and strong stock returns make donating your stock an attractive tax-saving move.

Many stocks in the last year have posted strong returns. And with higher tax rates, you face paying increased capital gains tax on their investments if sold.

As for gifting appreciated stock, the donor just has to transfer it to the account and will receive a tax deduction based on the present market value rather than what they paid for it.

Making a donation of stock can double your tax benefit. If you donate an appreciated security, you will avoid paying capital gains on the sale. In addition, the gifted stock allows you to deduct the value of the donation on your tax return. is equipped and ready to receive your stock donations. Just tell your broker you wish to donate stock to

For account number contact Paul Hudson at (800) 662-1859.

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