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.'
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.
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
FlyersRights.org, 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 Regulations.gov. 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.
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.