Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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It's Time For Bomb And Weapons Detection At Airport Perimeters

March 23, 2016
Image: Wochit News

Yesterday morning, the world awoke to yet another terrorist bombing in Europe.

But this attack struck fear in the heart of travelers, as the first explosions were at the check-in area of Brussels Airport, followed by another at a central subway station.

The current death toll is at 34, with upwards of 200 wounded.

'Soft' Targets

Terrorists simply walked into the unsecured areas of the airport and subway station and exploded their bombs. As expected, security measures were on heightened alert around the world,

These public areas before security - such as check-in spaces or the security lines themselves - have long been mentioned as "soft targets" that could be seen as terrorist targets.

In addition, the departure and arrival areas outside of airport security usually provide a sizable pool of potential victims that can be attacked without having to smuggle weapons past security. This is why experts recommend travelers minimize time they spend in the 'soft' areas of the airport.

It is not enough to have security checkpoints in-place for ticketed passengers heading to the plane or gates of airports.

Vigilance Is The New Normal
Security officers patrol inside New York_s John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.  March 22, 2016. REUTERS-MIKE SEGAR

Could we handle what happened in Brussels?

Given how short-staffed TSA is and the lines of hundreds congregated, waiting to get through security that stretches out the door - probably not.

Currently, anyone can walk in, there's no security to get into an airport, to detonate a suicide bomb or spray a crowd with bullets.

Secure Airports Properly

It is high time to expand the buffer ring at airports and increase the checkpoints before entering the airport building.

Attacks are likely to follow - effective counter measures needed at airports

Mar 22, 2016
The Brussels Airport bombings may represent a new wave and form of terrorist attack: Killing and maiming as many air travelers as possible in major airports with multiple bombs.

After 9/11/2001 major airports in the US and elsewhere had National Guard and some bomb detection installed for airport perimeters. Both those protections have been taken down and terrorists can now enter airports with bombs without much likelihood of detection.

While aviation security has made bombing or hijacking of airliners much more difficult, airport security is generally wide open. This needs to be tightened with perimeter bomb and weapons detection or else more airport bombings are likely to follow. 

Every new type of successful terrorist attack in history always generates copycat attacks until effective counter measures are put in place.

Paul Hudson
Member, FAA/TSA Aviation Security Advisory Committee (1997-2007)

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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If The Seat Fits

March 16, 2016

There is no escaping the "David vs Goliath" comparison, between the airlines' powerful lobbying group and the dogged advocates for consumer protection.

Now airline seat space is a hot topic in Washington.

For years FlyersRights has been hammering home the negative affects of cramped seating on safety and health, and finally we could be seeing a tipping point. People are 'mad as hell and not gonna take anymore.'

Tipping Point?

Back in early February, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN introduced the 'Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act' in an attempt to direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish minimum seat size standards.

But the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, urged his members to vote against the amendment - and almost every member of his party did. The amendment was defeated.

Unsurprisingly, the airline PACs are Rep. Shuster's largest supply of reelection funding, with donations from the leading US airlines - American, Alaskan, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and Southwest. Airline PACs have given $92,000  to Rep. Shuster this cycle. 

But taking up the cause are US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), also filing an amendment to the FAA's reauthorization bill that adopted Rep. Cohen's same minimum seat space standards to "protect the health and safety of passengers." It is currently pending before Congress.

Not to be undone, last week we saw a spectacularly named 'Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act' by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and again Richard Blumenthal, which would limit charges for checked bags, ticket changes and cancellations.

FlyersRights President Paul Hudson remarked, "A few bills have been introduced by Democrats but none by Republicans, who are in the majority in Congress and nothing by the Obama Administration that has a record under Anthony Foxx and Michael Huerta of ignoring or rejecting nearly all consumer measures, refusing to fund the aviation consumer hotline passed in 2012, blocking airline competition, foot dragging on safety measures and generally doing whatever the industry demands."

Air passenger rights concerns practically every citizen of the United States.

FAIR Fees Act, the largest airline passenger organization with over 50,000 members nationwide, strongly supports  legislation proposed by Senators Blumenthal and Markey to rein in the runaway and often concealed and exorbitant change fees,  baggage fees and other fees being charged by airlines. 

We petitioned the DOT in February 2015 to require that change fees on international flights be capped at $100 unless an airline can show that a higher fee is "reasonable".  The  DOT has a duty and legal authority to ensure that international air fares and fees are "reasonable"  but has failed to act since 1980, claiming that market forces will prevent unreasonable fees.  The DOT also has authority to prohibit "deceptive and unfair" airline practices for domestic as well as international air travel, but again has declined to act on any measure affecting pricing since 1980. 

Due to consolidation of US airlines into four carriers (American, Delta, Southwest, United) controlling 86% of domestic flights and three joint ventures (aka "alliances") controlling over 60% of international flights, most with antitrust exemptions granted by DOT, the airline industry has become an oligopoly that largely acts in concert to introduce fees and raise prices.  Furthermore, airlines have an extra incentive to use fees instead of airfares to increase prices since fees are presently exempt from the airline ticket tax which funds the Aviation Trust Fund used to support air traffic control and airport infrastructure improvements. 

Some so-called super low fare airlines like Spirit and Frontier use scores of fees to make their fares seem lower than they actually are to fool consumers. 

The DOT is the sole regulator of airlines, and under the preemption clause of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and judicial rulings, they have been deemed exempt from all state and local consumer protection laws and most tort law, as well as other federal regulations by the FTC, FCC. OSHA, FDA, EPA and other federal agencies except the FAA.

For details see DOT-OST-2015-0031 on We also have proposed that the tax loophole for airline fees be closed as it is draining the Aviation Trust Fund and that fees be deemed exorbitant and prohibited if they exceed a certain multiple of the reasonable cost of providing the service. 

DOT has not acted on our change fee petition and under its rules it can be deemed denied.  

Paul Hudson, President

Ask Not What Your Newsletter Can Do for You...
FlyersRights is reliant on the public's donations. All you have to do is click below to donate. 
Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

We publish weekly newsletters. 
There's no charge to receive any of them.  
We want your comments and photos! Got pics of seats with no space, long lines at check-in, TSA etc.? Send to the newsletter editor:, or @KendallFlyers, 4411 Bee Ridge Road, 274, Sarasota, FL 34233

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

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A Seat At The Table

Stop the race to the bottom.

That was the message at a press conference held on Monday by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Support for humane airline seating is gaining momentum.
Sen. Blumenthal is the latest to join New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen in demanding the Federal Aviation Administration regulate seat sizes and leg room on commercial airlines. 

Blumenthal, Schumer and Cohen are attaching an amendment to the FAA's reauthorization bill calling for standard seat space minimums to defend the safety and health of passengers.

The clock is ticking for Congress to pass legislation authorizing the FAA. Funding runs out March 31, 2016.

For years the incredible shrinking airline seat has been one of the top complaints at FlyersRights, and another clear case of the industry abusing its market power to the detriment of the American people.

Air travel in this country is neither a privilege nor a luxury.  In 2016 it's an essential mode of transport and service for the public; the efficient functioning of today's society; and the economy.  Flying is often times unavoidable and the only practical method of getting from one place to another.

FlyersRights has called on the FAA to require that minimum seat standards for economy seating  accommodate 90% of passengers without any additional charges and that seating be provided for the highest 10% by size at a reasonable proportional additional charge.  

Instead, without regulation, airlines have reduced seat size to the point that the average male passenger's shoulders are wider than the seat and passengers over 6'2" or 240 lbs. can no longer fit in economy seats without intruding on their seatmate's space or the aisle . See  Petition for Rulemaking: Limitation Of Seat Size Reduction FAA-2015-4011 .

It's wrong to call a transportation oligopoly which provides an essential service a "free market." In such a situation, the customer cannot vote with their wallet. Instead, they must take what there is, and choose between lesser evils.

The airlines have become accustomed to constant overreach in the quest for higher profits at all costs. If businesses show they  cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, it needs to fall to the government to do it for them .

Mad? A good way to unleash your anger is by contacting your congressmember and/or senator - - via email or phone.

Tell them flying has become miserable, sardine seating is a big problem and something needs to be done! Your constituent complaint will get tallied and passed along to the Member.

Your Letters!

Dear FlyersRights:

I just learned of  through a NY Times article republished in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today.

I have signed petitions.

Nowhere in the web site do I see a place to pose this question: What about sponsoring a National Do Not Fly Day, several times a year, or even monthly?

If hundreds of thousands of flying passengers did not fly on a designated Wednesday, or other day, money-hungry airline CEOs would likely take notice.

Do it twice and we may well see immediate changes made; and, keep the National Day a threat.  A great amount of airline travel is discretionary.

I have currently stopped flying: I just cannot face the bruising and discomfort incurred in the tiny, cramped seats.  I believe many arrogant, and ignorant, passengers are also to blame.  Those are the ones that make flight attendants' jobs hell.  When I stopped flying, I had to give up my job:   Surprise retirement.  However, all the planned renewal of national and international travel is now "zero."   --premium-priced "comfort seats" sell out fast, or are cancelled with no notice (and, no refund of the higher ticket price without a fight).  I believe the buck stops with the multi-million dollar CEO salaries (and, they fly on private jets, not commercial!).

Thank you/ Mahalo.

Interesting idea. Others have mentioned this too. But concerns include failure of many boycotts and the resources needed to mount such a campaign.

Any that you  know that successfully changed corporate behavior? 

Paul Hudson

Dear FlyersRights:

Going back a ways, a boycott/strike here in Hawaii busted the behavior of the Big Five.

The lettuce boycott of Cesar Chavez, the bus boycott of the 50s.

Most recently some of the university boycotts.

Actually, I understand that most successful campaigns now are via social media.  Arab Spring, even, was started and fueled in social media.  Governments all over are monitoring or shutting down social media lines.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. naming a future first date, such as "November 30, 2016: First Do Not Fly Day" gives the public time to work around that date. Additionally, the news media has time to pick it up and have articles and sound bites spaced during the preceding months; this also gives the airlines time to clean up.   

Then, list dates in the succeeding months that would be Do Not Fly and build on the social media without let up.   Any noticeable drop in ticket sales will hit home.  I have seen (in coupon ads) that the momentum builds.  

A good percentage of use the first run, then the second or third run: Bam! Deluge.   Farmers' Markets, Food truck fairs, Raves, fairs, whatever, pop in numbers and attendance after the first event day.  Listing the event as a repeat event will build momentum.

College marketing students, high school students could anchor the campaign, at no cost.  I think Obama's social media blitz was college-based.  If there is a central "hub" where students sit and set
up a blitz, or anyone, pizza is a strong and cheap-enough fuel.   I have heard stories that the major strike/boycott back in the 40s in Hawaii was fueled with beef stew and rice and poi.  Not much of it, but just that it's there.


Interesting stuff , as I recall the UAW had good luck by targeting one auto maker at a time rather than all at once.

Perhaps the worst offender or worst model seat configuration.

Would you be willing to volunteer to help with this? FlyersRights runs almost entirely on volunteers. 


Dear FlyersRights members!

We are looking for volunteers to help coordinate a "No Seat Space, No Fly" campaign to boycott the airlines that refuse to stop shrinking seats and leg room.

FlyersRights will write to each airline CEO asking they pledge a voluntary moratorium on further reductions till Congress or the FAA acts to set minimum standards.

Please reply to this email or write to 

Thank you!

Ask Not What Your Newsletter Can Do for You...
FlyersRights is reliant on the public's donations. All you have to do is click below  to donate. 

Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776

The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

We publish w eekly newsletters. 
There's no charge to receive any of them.  
We want your comments and photos! Got pics of seats with no space, long lines at check-in, TSA etc.? Send  to the newsletter editor:, or @KendallFlyers

Thursday, March 3, 2016

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Narrow Escape

March 2, 2016

For a while it appeared the only winners in the FAA Reauthorization debate were going to be the airlines.

Last month  Rep. Steve Cohen's (D-TN) 'Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act' was shot down by the House Transportation Committee chaired by a congressman who just happens to be close buddies with airline lobbyists.

Now joining the battle with FlyersRights is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is adding an amendment to the FAA bill that would require seat-size guidelines.

Saddle up, partner! Ready for "horse saddle" seats?
Patented by Airbus, it shrinks seat pitch to 23 inches.
Flying the Cruel Skies

Flying coach on a long haul flight may be one of life's cruelest experiences.

Each year brings fresh horrors as more and more are sardined in ever receding seats, then being charged for legroom.

Meanwhile, airlines are enjoying record profits by mastering ways to nickel and dime every scrap of revenue from passengers while oil prices remain low.

Even frequent flyers are being robbed of benefits they were promised years ago.

This is simple corporate greed, that endangers the public. This is not a free market issue, it is a health issue.

And all signs point to further debasing the airline experience at the next economic downturn.

Pretty soon airlines may need to hire the Japanese people pushers that cram people onto trains.
Just last month, United Airlines reportedly was considering a higher density configuration that would squeeze about 100 more seats onto Boeing 777s by adding one extra seat per row in economy. It would also reduce its business class.

While last summer, the aircraft manufacturer disclosed they planned to shrink lavatories in order to get another 14 seats onto their jetliners. 

Think of the 747 which started at 9-across, and after a few years was reconfigured to 10-across. What's to stop the continued erosion of size until we wind up with 10 across seating on a 737?

Surprisingly, you can squeeze as many as 853 seats on the Airbus 380. Would you be OK with that? Would you have any safety concerns? How do you evacuate aircraft where spacing is super tight?

Seat pitch is a safety issue. If there are no regulations in place and seat pitch continues to shrink, there may be a day when the airlines will be flying close to 1000 passengers in coach.

Isn't just a matter of comfort, but of safety and health too

The average legroom on airlines has shrunk four inches since the 1970s, from an ample 35 inches, down to just 31 inches - and widths of 18 inches down to 16.5 inches today.

The airlines say it's a job for market forces. But the "vote with your wallet" statements aren't realistic when there is no choice. 

The airlines make that free market argument everytime you go to book premium economy. But look at the price difference - it's not proportional. And the longer the flight, the more disproportional it gets. Most fares seem to be about double for Economy Plus.

Emergency evacuation tests haven't been tested on tighter seats on airlines today

This has led some experts to raise concerns over the safety of passengers.

They warn that having rows of seats jammed closer together makes it harder for passengers to evacuate after a crash. Flight attendants say the lack of space leads to more cases of air rage.

Doctors also warn that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who can't move their legs during longer flights.

How you can participate

Millions of miserable airline passengers are counting on our efforts. Everyone, please contact your Congressional representative to urge their support. 

A vote on the bill is expected in March.

Imagine what would happen if all shoe stores w ere own by airlines?  

You would not find a ny shoes larger than size 7, unless you paid  a big extra fee for larger sizes. If you wanted laces o r insoles or maybe even heels that would b e additional. 

Oh, and imagine if shoe stores w ere exempt from all consumer protection laws and most antitrust laws - so price fixing.

Supply restriction was legal, and foreign-made shoes o r foreign controlled stores were banned. After all it's only a bout comfort so why shouldn't consumers p ay more to get more? 

Sounds ridiculous?  But t hat is the US airline industry business model and state of regulation. 

Soon, unless the 2016 Congress or the soon-to-be ex-Transportation  Secretary Foxx or ex-President Obama act - or passengers revolt - look for airlines to continue shrinking passenger space till anyone over 5' 10" or 180 pounds is forced to pay e xtra while death rates from blood clots and crash landings soar.

Paul Hudson, President
Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory  Committee

Ask Not What Your Newsletter Can Do for You...
FlyersRights is heavily reliant on the public's donations. All you have to do is click  here to donate. 

Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
1 (877) Flyers6
  1 (877) 359-3776

The FlyersRights HOTLINE!

We publish w eekly newsletters. 
There's no charge to receive any of them.  
Send your comments to the newsletter editor:, or @KendallFlyers