Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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No Exceptions

By Paul Hudson
President,, Pubic Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee
With assistance by Andriana VanderGriend, Johannes Munter & Richard Baxley

Editor's Note: This article may be republished with attribution.

On April 3, 2015, Karen Momsen-Evers, a Southwest Airlines passenger, received a text message from her husband shortly before her plane was to taxi that read, "Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I  am going to kill myself..."  She panicked and told the flight attendants, who absolutely refused to let her communicate with her husband to dissuade him by cell phone or through the flight deck telephone. 

After the 2 ½ hour flight, she was informed by the police that her husband had indeed killed himself during the flight.

This situation raises several important questions. What FAA regulations apply? What policies and training do flight attendants undergo for passenger emergency situations?  What legal recourse does a passenger have? What should be done to help passengers prevent tragedies in the future?  What can a passenger faced with a family emergency do as a practical matter when on an airliner?

FAA Regulations Re. Passenger Emergencies

The FAA regulations do not permit the use of cell phones except on landing, but do permit use of cell phones for "emergency" related communications. At present, passenger personal emergencies are not specifically included or excluded in the definition of "emergency."

Most airlines including Southwest permit and even encourage passengers (for a fee) to use their personal electronic devices with WIFI connection once the flight is airborne over 10,000 feet. Skype and other services allow telephone voice over internet communications, email and text messages. 

Crew members are also allowed to use onboard communications equipment as long as it does not interfere with their duties or put anyone on board at risk.

Airline Policies And Training

Southwest and most airlines allow passengers to use cell phones after landing while the aircraft is taxiing. Southwest policies provide that flight attendants should notify the Captain in situations of emergencies, but arguably do not include passenger emergencies that do not involve operation of the aircraft.

Southwest issued this statement: "Our hearts go out the Evers family during this difficult time.  Our flight attendants are trained to notify the Captain if there is an emergency that poses a hazard to the aircraft or to the passengers on-board.  In this situation, the pilots were not notified."  Then the company offered to refund the cost of her plane ticket.

Southwest policies also require the passengers to comply with flight attendant requests at all times regarding electronic devices. contacted for comment the flight attendants unions representing most flight attendants (the Association of Flight Attendants) and the union representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants (the Transport Workers Union) on this issue, but is still waiting for a response.

Legal Recourse

Intentional or emotional infliction of emotional distress is a common law tort, but one that is rarely successful and disfavored by the courts.  A key element is the conduct must be clearly "outrageous", and while this should be largely a matter for a jury to decide, most such cases are dismissed by judges at initial stages of the litigation.

Needed Reforms Re. Airline Passenger Emergencies

As the passengers and flight crews can now be in communication by telephone and other personal electronic devices with the outside world, passenger family emergencies some involving life or death situations are bound to re-occur.  Accordingly, while always keeping in mind that flight safety is paramount, air travel needs to accommodate the modern interconnected world.

Accordingly, will recommend the following:

Proposed Guidelines for the FAA & Airlines re Passenger Emergency Situations

In the wake of the Southwest Airlines passenger whose husband committed suicide while she was onboard a flight from New Orleans, LA, to Milwaukee, WI, the FAA should release an Advisory Circular proposing best practice guidelines for airlines to follow in non-medical passenger emergencies.  

Existing FAA regulations fail to address passengers' personal emergencies adequately leaving the airlines with no guidelines as to handling irregular situations.  

FlyersRights.Org proposes the following guidelines:
  • Expand the definition of "emergency" in existing FAA regulations to include passengers' personal emergencies not directly related to the safe operation of the aircraft.
  • Expand the definition of "safety" in existing FAA regulations to include passengers' personal safety not directly related to the safe operation of the aircraft.
  • Advise airlines to assist passengers' personal emergencies and safety insofar that it does not delay the flight more than ten minutes, or once airborne, that it does not substantially interfere with the cabin crew or flight deck from their duties or from the safety of other passengers.
  • Advise airlines to allow passengers to use personal cell phones during ground operations, up until the aircraft reaches the runway threshold, for emergency situations.
  • Advise airlines to allow the flight deck to use the onboard telephone in order to aid passengers' personal emergencies.
Practical Steps For Passengers Faced With A Family Emergency

If on the tarmac or taxiway, advise the crew that you have a matter of life and death and in a loud voice if necessary, that you be allowed to exit the plane, refuse to sit down, make a fuss so the pilot returns to the gate.  If in the air, WIFY Skype calls are possible, and you can demand in writing and verbally the captain be made aware of your situation and need to communicate. 
 Probability & Statistics 

With record Memorial Day travel behind us, how's this summer shaping up for air travelers?

Before you can answer that, the airline lobbyists already did!

Airlines for America, powerbrokers best known for being 'in bed' with Congress, predicts:
  • U.S. passenger airlines achieved strong operational performance and improved profitability in the first quarter despite another 'harsh winter' (well, not so harsh).
  • Improving finances benefit customers, employees, investors and the overall U.S. economy (nono and maybe).
  • U.S. passenger airlines' operational performance improved markedly year over year as airlines invested in systems, procedures and staffing operations. (What?!!)
Probably over 90 percent of problems we get at FlyersRights involve delays and cancellations. And they're not weather-related; they stem from lack of flight crews to maintenance problems to lack of timely information. The airlines may apologize, but do nothing to ensure it doesn't happen again. There is little to no recourse from the FAA or DOT.

The source of the passenger dissatisfaction has much to do with the fact that the three largest US airlines have a combined monopoly over the nationwide US air network — from city-to-city domestic routes to international connections. Passenger plight nowadays is akin to the frustration generated by the monopolistic cable television or cell phone industries in the US, where the respective markets are dominated by an insensitive few.

Many seem upset the airline industry does not serve the traveler — but why should it? It has powerful friends in Congress and in the regulatory agencies.

Last summer may be best remembered for 'air rage,' knee-defenders and drinks thrown at recliners. Though entertaining, the argument seems to blame the victim for suffering from the crime.

Specifically, the assertion: "The only way airlines can make money is to schedule more flights, cram more seats into the planes and manage their yield so that the planes fly fuller," fails to acknowledge the implicit assumption that money cannot be made in a business by reducing costs.

The Wall Street Journal posted its annual statistics for the best and worst airlines. Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, both well known for their good customer service, placed at the top of rankings — which shows that profitability does not have to come at the expense of the customer. Effective management will be able to reduce costs at the same revenue level to improve profitability.

Of course, mergers have reduced competition, which leads to all kinds of pricing and service "understandings" that permit rate hikes and fee increases without ever a shadowy backroom meeting.

This is modern capitalism at its worst, where restraint of trade is more profitable than expensive and uncertain innovation. Keep the foreign airlines out, and a fat, protected market for local carriers.

No wonder the Big Three (AA, DL, UA) are fighting hard against international competitors. No oligopoly likes new, strong entrants which challenge the status quo with a better product at lower prices.

Even Republican trickle-down defenders can see that current market forces are out of wack here. Such "invisible hands" exist only in text books today. These are robber barons in action, not market forces.

FlyersRights has said many times that the airlines should be investigated for possible collusion and/or violation of the Sherman anti-Trust Act.  With the airline industry — as in most — the answer is trust busting. It worked for Teddy Roosevelt, and should work now in the New Gilded Age.

As is becoming all too common, we see the USA resting on the laurels of its past greatness, oblivious to an outside world that is accelerating past it.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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Boeing's 787 Dreamliner: 
Should The Jet Be Flying?

By Gary Stoller

Despite new government concerns about the safety of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft, airlines haven't stopped flying the problem-plagued wide-body aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced last month in an airworthiness directive all electrical power can shut down-and a pilot could lose control-if a 787 jet is continuously powered for 248 days. A software problem can cause the generator control units to "simultaneously"go into 'fail-safe modes,"shutting down the electrical power, the FAA said.

The agency said it was immediately issuing the directive-without issuing notice of its proposed rule making or asking for public comment-because "an unsafe condition exists that requires the immediate adoption of this airworthiness directive."  The FAA said the problem was found by Boeing during laboratory tests, and the aircraft manufacturer is developing a software upgrade "that will address the unsafe condition." President Paul Hudson says the entire 787 fleet should be grounded until at least the temporary fix is implemented. The FAA, Boeing and some other safety experts say such action is unnecessary.

"Any problem that could cause an airliner to become uncontrollable needs to be fixed before the aircraft is allowed to fly,"Hudson says. "The FAA should ground each and every 787 until the airline or Boeing certifies that the temporary fix contained in the airworthiness directive has been applied."

Hudson, who is also a member of the FAA's Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, says "The FAA and other national air safety authorities should require that Boeing has the permanent fix it has promised by late 2015 delivered, installed and independently tested." 

Boeing, which has delivered 271 787s to its customers since delivery began four years ago, says it is working on the software problem, and a fix should be ready in this year's fourth quarter.

The FAA says grounding all 787s isn't required, because it is "unlikely"that an airline "would maintain continuous electrical power on the four main generator control units for 248 days."  

Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman says all 787s in service "already have performed a power off/power on cycle in the course of performing maintenance activities,"eliminating "the extremely low risk of all six generators aboard the airplane losing power at the same time."

Former National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia says he is unaware of any aircraft being powered up for 248 consecutive days. He says power is "routinely removed"during a pre-flight check of an aircraft's electrical system.

"I do not believe grounding the planes is necessary,"he says. "I think the risk to the traveling public is extremely low."
Aviation consultant John Cox says the FAA's directive was "a conservative approach to the problem,"and "there is no reason to consider grounding the airplane."

Past aircraft groundings involved "a proven issue,"says Cox, a former airline pilot who was the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association union. "This is a case of a potential issue that has an effective mitigation."

Cox says he would fly on a 787 "without hesitation"and let his family fly on the aircraft "without a second thought."

Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group representing U.S. airlines, says Boeing informed the group on April 20 after lab tests discovered the software problem.

Airlines "work in close coordination with FAA, Boeing and other stakeholders to maintain the highest level of safety for our customers, employees and aircraft,"Day says.

According to Boeing data, 31 customers-airlines and leasing companies-have received delivery of 787s since 2011. United Airlines operates 787 jets, and American Airlines began flying 787s this month. Delta Air Lines has deferred delivery of its order of 18 787 aircraft until 2020.

As of April 15, 2015, Boeing data reveals, 787 Dreamliner aircraft have flown 238,223 passenger flights worldwide and carried an estimated 44.4 million passengers since they began flying

The 787s' recent software problem is the latest concern in a series of problems with the plane's electrical system. In 2013, the FAA grounded all 787s for four months after two lithium-ion batteries overheated on two aircraft. It was the agency's first grounding of an aircraft fleet since DC-10 jets were grounded in 1979.

In one 787 incident at Boston's Logan airport in January 2013, firefighters worked 40 minutes to put out a blaze after the plane's lithium-ion battery caught fire. Passengers had departed from the Japan Air Lines plane before the fire started.

Two weeks later, an All Nippon Airways 787 made an emergency landing, and passengers were evacuated after another lithium-ion battery caught fire. The 787 is the first aircraft type to make extensive use of such batteries to power its electrical systems.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the fire at Logan airport was an internal short circuit within a cell of the auxiliary power unit's lithium-ion battery. The NTSB cited Boeing for a design failure and the FAA for failing to notice the design failure when it certified the plane.

Delivery of the first 787 jet was delayed about three years by various production problems. The problems included an electrical fire that broke out on a 787 test flight in 2010, halting certification flights for a few months.

Last year, the FAA approved an exemption that allowed Boeing to deliver to airlines its newest-model 787 jet, the 787-9, although two components, including the ram air turbine, didn't meet federal regulations. The FAA said it approved the exemption, because it was improbable that all six power generators would fail simultaneously.

The agency last year also approved the 787-9's predecessor, the twin-engine 787-8, to operate on overwater routes that fly up to 330 minutes from a landing field. Previously, the 787-8 was limited to routes of 180 minutes from a landing field.

Hudson says the FAA's approval jeopardizes passenger and flight-crew safety.

"The FAA has dangerously allowed the 787 to fly up to 5 1/2 hours from the nearest landing zone, even after battery fires and numerous other operational incidents required grounding or emergency landings,"Hudson says.

"This mistake needs correction by restricting flights over water to three hours or less from the nearest landing zone until the 787 establishes a track record of trouble-free operations for at least three years-as is required for most other two-engine aircraft." 


( commissioned independent aviation safety journalist, Gary Stoller, to write about the government's recent safety concerns with Boeing's 787 aircraft. had no editorial control over the following article.)

Open Skies Policy 
Creates U.S. Jobs

By Kevin Mitchell

U.S. communities that have lost jobs and connectivity to global business and leisure destinations - because of consolidation engineered by the "Big Three" U.S. carriers (Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines) - support Open Skies policy and foreign-carrier entry. 

In 2000, major U.S. carriers flew 3,732 planes versus 3,434 in 2013, a 9 percent decline. Airline employment dropped by 150,000. 

Now, as Labor raises concerns about Gulf carriers and employment are they blind to the fact that the "capacity discipline" now preached by the Big Three is a major reason there are fewer jobs? 

If it costs 800 jobs each time a U.S. carrier doesn't launch a flight due to Gulf carrier competition, as alleged by the Big Three, does Delta voluntarily give away 800 U.S. jobs each time it defers to Air France to launch flights Delta would operate itself but for the joint venture agreement?

Open Skies policy and foreign airline entry have ameliorated this airline-industry-job contraction since 2000 by supporting millions of travel and tourism jobs. For example, Emirates announced daily service from Dubai to Orlando that will create 1,460 jobs and pump $100 million into Central Florida's economy. Overall, the economic impact from foreign visitors to Orlando is estimated at $2 billion a year. 

Likewise, Dallas/Fort Worth airport values Gulf carrier flights at $600 million in annual economic benefit. For perspective, the Big Three employ 250,000 while travel and tourism employs 15 million. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the aerospace and all-cargo industries are similarly tied to Open Skies policy. The Big Three's gambit recklessly places the Open Skies job-engine at risk.

The Administration should be applauded for emplacing a thoughtful, deliberative process to consider the views of all stakeholders as well as broader geopolitical and trade ramifications. However, as evidenced by the Big Three's desperate Capitol Hill campaign, they want a rush to judgment that (a) ignores all interests but their self-interest in less competition, (b) denies the Gulf carriers fundamental American fairness to have a meaningful opportunity to respond to allegations against them, (c) disregards the interest of consumers and the consequences for them of less competition and choice and (d) ignores potential aviation and non-aviation related collateral costs of what the Big Three are demanding.

The American model for aviation market liberalization has been embraced worldwide. The U.S. Open Skies brand has been jealously guarded and is now being tarnished. The threat is not that agreements would be cancelled. Rather, should the U.S. seek consultations with Gulf partners, the only reason likely accepted by the rest of the world would be to protect the Big Three, the most powerful airlines on the planet.

Airlines worldwide would observe this protectionism, and abdication of American leadership, and seek their own advantages in renegotiated Open Skies agreements with the U.S. and other countries. The danger is that the painstakingly created international system for aviation liberalization would unravel.

Finally, the Big Three are too clever by half in asserting that their concern is not with Open Skies, that they are big Open Skies supporters. The demand for a unilateral freeze on Gulf-carrier capacity would unquestionably constitute a breach of the U.S. Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The Big Three are serial spinners but even that one -- we support Open Skies so much that we are demanding the Administration take the unprecedented step of violating two Open Skies agreements -- stretches credibility too far.

Kevin Mitchell is founder of the Business Travel Coalition, and, a broad coalition of global stakeholders whose mission is to promote Open Skies policies.
FlyersRights - We're Working For You!

On June 23rd, FlyersRights will address the Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection (ACACP) on airline change and cancellation fees at its next meeting in Washington DC.

The committee is aware that we recently filed a petition with the DOT regarding airline change fees on international flights and is seeking input on the topic from a consumer perspective. 

FlyersRights looks forward to advising DOT on this as well as a variety of other issues that impact the flying public.

Dear FlyersRights:

I was returning home (PHX) from San Jose last week and had the following experience that just showed they really have no idea of what customer service is all about (yeah, no surprise). BTW, I am an Exec Platinum in their program, so this makes it even more ridiculous.
I was on the scheduled 4:10 flight from SJC that after landing, they announced some issues that needed to be looked at on the plane. 

1. After about 30 minutes, they canceled the flight. 

2. I called the Exec Platinum phone number and they said they had no notice of cancelation and accordingly could not rebook. I asked them to call to find out the status, they said they could not.
3. I asked to speak to a supervisor, offered to send a picture of the long line, and by this time they did get the message it was canceled 15 minutes after announced at the gate. Left hand clearly not knowing what the right is doing, but to not have a process to find out is nuts.
4. The Exec Plat desk put me on the next flight but said seats were under gate control and I would have to wait in line.
5 Waited 45 minutes to get to agent, then she says the reservations people could have issued the seat. 
Incompetence somewhere, but why does the customer have to bear this?
6. As I am standing there I notice on the screen behind the agent that flight status still said: on time. Asked them why, they said Its the airport, they have no control. 
Really? and they can't coordinate this? On a previous trip was in DC changing flights and had to run to the connecting gate, which felt like it was miles away. Upon getting there found out the same thing - delayed, not on time as posted.  
7. The efficiency of dealing with unanticipated change from a customer perspective is lower than low.... The flight was a stop in Phx and then going on to Milwaukee so the rebooking for the connections was difficult to say the least. They had 3 people working the desk but it still took over an hour and with little information customers were on their own.
Now, to just about anyone it would have seen logical to separate lines. One for just PHX, and the others for connections. Get thru the Phx customers quickly, then help on the connections as well. Nope, never occurred to them. 
OK, I know they are likely understaffed at lots of airports but here is one for the Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0. There should be a customer service SWAT team at each airport that when something like this happens, they can come in and assist with rebooking, and customer service. The airlines should pay for this, either on subscription or when needed. 
Last point.... When the flight was cancelled, apparently they made the smart decision to bring a bigger plane in. They really did not communicate this which was a missed opportunity to reassure waiting customers. They just don't think with the mindset of customer services. This, but the way, was all US Airways, so I don't think they can use the 'we haven't unified all our systems with AA yet' as an excuse.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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                       Prix Fixe                                                                   May 12, 2015

Transpacific Airlines Class Action Settlement

A $39.5 million price-fixing class action settlement has been reached with eight out of 13 airlines accused of conspiring to fix the prices of airline tickets for travel between the United States and Asia/Oceania.   

As a result, ticket purchasers may have paid more than necessary.  

If you purchased an airline ticket that included at least one flight between the United States and Asia, Australia, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands, and the airline ticket was purchased from Jan. 1, 2000 and the present, you may be eligible for benefits from the transpacific airline class action settlement. 

The settling defendants include: Air France, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and Vietnam Airlines. However, there are still five non-settling airlines, who are also defendants in this class action lawsuit: Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, EVA Airways and Philippines Airlines. 

The consolidated class action lawsuit, called "In re Transpacific Passenger Air Transportation Antitrust Litigation", was filed in 2009, alleging "a long-running, international conspiracy" by several airlines that fly from the United States to Asia and the region to impose "airfair increases, including surcharge increases, on international air passengers that were in substantial lockstep both in timing and amount."  

The class action lawsuit alleged that the airlines violated antitrust laws. 

The consolidated transpacific airline class action lawsuit came after several lawsuits were filed against some of the airlines by the U.S. government and investigations by the Justice Department. 

The plaintiffs included residents from California, Washington State, New York, Canada and Japan, and the defendants in the initial complaint included 19 airlines. 

The airlines in the price-fixing class action lawsuit were charged with violating the The Sherman Act, which includes the federal antitrust laws. 

The airlines have agreed to pay $39,502,000 into the settlement fund. There are separate subclasses for each of the named airlines above [see below for more details on who is included in the settlement]. 

Persons who purchased tickets between the US and Asia, Australia, New Zealand, or the Pacific Islands since 2000 may be eligible for a cash award.

  • Air New Zealand (Non-Settling Defendant);
  • All Nippon Airways Company, Limited (Non-Settling Defendant);
  • American Airlines, Inc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Asiana Airlines, Inc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • British Airways, Plc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Cathay Pacific Airways Limited (Settling Defendant);
  • China Airlines Limited (Taiwan) (Non-Settling Defendant);
  • Continental Airlines, Inc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Delta Airlines, Inc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Deutsche Lufthansa AG (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • EVA Airways Corporation (Non-Settling Defendant);
  • The International Air Transport Association (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Japan Airlines International Company, Ltd. (Settling Defendant);
  • Korean Airlines, Ltd. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Malaysian Airline System Berhad (Settling Defendant);
  • Northwest Airlines Corporation (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Philippine Airlines, Inc. (Non-Settling Defendant);
  • Qantas Airways Limited (Settling Defendant);
  • Scandinavian Airlines System (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Singapore Airlines Limited (Settling Defendant);
  • Societe Air France (Settling Defendant);
  • Swiss International AG (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Thai Airways International Public Co., Ltd. (Settling Defendant);
  • United Airlines, Inc. (Alleged Co-Conspirator);
  • Vietnam Airlines Company Limited (Settling Defendant); and
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. (Alleged Co-Conspirator).
It does not appear that proof of purchase is required to fill out the claim form, but all claims are subject to audit and may require proof of purchase in the future.

Objections to the settlement have been filed by the Class Action Fairness Center and a class member alleging that the settlement should include actual notice to class members instead of just publication,  that the legal fee claims of over 40% are excessive and other details need to be disclosed and clarified.  

The plaintiff lawyers filed their responses on May 8th and a final hearing is set for May 22 in San Francisco.

This appears to be a settlement that should provide affected travelers who file claims with very significant cash awards unlike most class action settlements.

For further info contact Paul Hudson at: or 800-662-1859

To file a claim, see below.

Claim Form Deadline: 9/19/2015 ESTIMATED 

If the Court approves the Settlement, class members will have 120 days after the Settlements become final and effective to file your claim. The earliest this deadline will be is Sept. 19, 2015. 

Case Name:
In Re Transpacific Passenger Air Transportation Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 07-CV-5634-CRB, MDL. 1913, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Final Hearing: 05/22/15, 10 am

Settlement Website: 

Claims Administrator:
Rust Consulting
Transpacific Air Settlement
P.O. Box 2209
Faribault, MN 55021-1609

Your Letters!

Dear FlyersRights:

The claim "passengers have no way of knowing what data is captured, how long it is retained, how it is used, and who it's shared with" has always been true; way back when, in the days of calling the airline or visiting a travel agent to buy a ticket, they recorded your name, your fellow passengers, where you wanted to go, and when you wanted to get there. You went to the airport and you checked in with your paper boarding passes, which were collected and aggregated or were electronically counted by the boarding agent. There were DEC and VAX mainframes in the background recording this data and there were analysts building new products and pricing models on this data. You were never presented with an option for opting out of this process. If you left your mailing address or telephone number, the airline may even have sold your information to junk mailers, who proceed to send you postcards on timeshares in Florida. After all, you flew there, right?

Fast forward to today, and nothing much has changed, except that the data is more accurate and there is much more of it.


Dear FlyersRights:

I don't understand "And through the Freedom of Information Act, Disney reportedly hands over to the Department of Defense all data on their customers" - FOIA governs/mandates access to government-held data, has nothing to do with private businesses -- let alone mandating their providing it TO government.
And regarding...
By grabbing the cookies that each web user brings with them when they visit an airline's e-commerce website, an airline can find out what other sites a given consumer visited and what other searches they performed before purchasing a ticket.
...I don't think cross-site cookie access is possible -- modern browsers prevent that. But third-party cookies work. Still, you've oversimplified cookies as though every site can read every other site's cookies.
The problem is that cookies set on one site CANNOT be read by another site. In other words, cookies set on cannot be read by
So the work-around used is to store a third-party cookie (i.e. a cross-domain cookie). When a user visits, a cookie is not only set for but also for a common domain which is accessed by all sites that use the ad-company's code.
To the second issue: 
How do advertisers use cookies to track your online behavior?
Advertisers follow your movements from site to site and build a database of your online activity with so-called "third-party cookies".
How do these tracking cookies work? To begin with, you are always the first party, and the cookies you receive when you visit a website are the second-party cookies. 
Usually, websites let advertising networks place ads within their pages. If you click on an ad, another cookie is sent to your browser by the advertiser - that's the third-party cookie. With every new site you visit that's related to that particular advertiser, the third-party cookie can be traced. This way, the advertiser learns about your online habits and can build up a consumer profile of you - that's behavioral tracking.

To the first issue: Freedom Of Information Act requests are requests for information to government entities or private entities performing governmental functions with public monies. 
According to documents that came to light under FOIA, Disney's ties to the government go back to the 1940s.
FlyersRights has been following the increase in surveillance of travelers for years - via airport beacon tracking, with inflight wifi, and the airlines datamining of frequent-flyer programs or when passengers buy tickets.

Disney is mentioned because much of the technology originates with Disney. They are the pioneers of data warehousing and surveillance and going back decades. 
Some have commented that a certain amount of surveillance is essential for the public good. But there is a line between what is essential for the public good and invasive total-information awareness technologies, and that line is easy to cross if unattended. 
As Congress debates renewal of the Patriot Act, it is timely to weigh in on this with your elected representatives.
Kendall Creighton
Dear FlyersRights:

AA canceled my flight at the very last moment, ruined a one-day trip that I had meticulously planned months ahead of time, AA refused to rebook me even on sister carriers or non-direct routes, and then AA refused to offer any refund or credit back and then had the audacity to proceed to continue to charge me extra money for the nonexistent premium aisles seats that never materialized on the plane that was never sent and never showed up, for a flight that was canceled but not rescheduled.

Sorry for your difficulties with American Airlines. We are working on a new passenger Bill of Rights which would create automatic compensation for delays and cancellations such as yours. 

If you do not receive a satisfactory answer from AA you should file a complaint with the Department of Transportation at and consider a small claims lawsuit against American. If you have further questions do not hesitate to contact me. Please consider a donation to flyersrights at

Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director

Hi Paul,
Heard you on WWL radio New Orleans.
Could you send me information on compensation for flight delays?
Thank you,

Michael A.

Dear Michael,

Here you go.  If this info is helpful to you, we hope you would consider a donation to as we depend entirely on contributions from the traveling public.

Also, as we attempt to get the DOT to stop airlines from hiding flight delay compensation rights, and to correct their obsolete publication Fly Rights that incorrectly claims passengers have no compensation for flight delays and cancellations, we would appreciate your relating any stories where you or people or company have been affected by flight delays, particularly those not based on bad weather.   

This is not a small matter, as there are about 40 million passengers a year that suffer from international flight delays from the US alone.

Paul Hudson, Pres.
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News of the Week:

Rep. Bill Shuster Aided Virgin Islands-Then Asked For Cash:

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