Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bad Judgement

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Bad Judgement

February 22, 2017

The intent and purpose of the Montreal Convention was to clarify, harmonize, and achieve uniformity of rules governing claims arising from international air transportation. It was to create an orderly development of international air transport operations and the smooth flow of passengers, baggage and cargo.

Although the intent was to unify rules governing claims arising from international air transportation, there is no uniformity of process - a plaintiff can be treated differently depending on what Member Country they file in. It is creating unnecessary confusion as to the process frustrated passengers must take to get the redress afforded them by the Montreal Convention.

The Supreme Court has allowed an anti-consumer 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling to stand, requiring consumers to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve protections afforded by the treaty that governs all claims against airlines arising out of international flights, reports and Travelers United, Inc. The travel groups had filed an amici brief in December with the US Supreme Court in support of international consumer protections in the Montreal Convention.

The Court declined to hear an appeal from a controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling which dismissed a passenger claim for personal injury, because her lawyers filed the case timely in South Africa but not in the US within 2 years.

Paul Hudson, President of noted, "This decision leaves passengers with the onerous burden of having to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve their rights to recovery for personal injury, death, baggage or delay compensation against airlines. Passengers now face another expensive and time consuming hurdle, adding to the mountain of technical legal defenses already employed by airlines to defeat any passenger claim."

"This US Supreme Court action undercuts the expressed intent of the Montreal Convention to make passenger claims uniform and simple, while limiting claim amounts. It is also a slap in the face of 200 other nations whose court filings will not be recognized by US courts, contrary the express intent and language of the Montreal Convention," according to Charlie Leocha, President of Travelers United.

Johanna von Schoenebeck was injured on an international flight to San Francisco when a seat back collapsed on her neck, causing spinal injuries. After originally filing in South Africa, where the flight originated and where von Schoenebeck lived at the time, KLM Airlines waited for the two-year statute of limitations to expire before requesting a $23,000 bond for its attorney fees and suggesting that von Schoenebeck move the case to the United States. When von Schoenebeck re-filed in California, KLM immediately moved to dismiss for untimeliness, which was granted by a US District Court in San Francisco and affirmed by a split 2-1 decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A copy of the brief filed in the US Supreme Court is available at  MOTION AND BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE FLYERS RIGHTS EDUCATION FUND AND TRAVELERS UNITED IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI. is the largest airline passenger advocacy organization. It is best known for spearheading the Passenger Bill of Rights and the rule against lengthy tarmac confinements. operates a toll-free hotline 877-FLYERS6, publishes a weekly newsletter at and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D.C. It is also appealing the FAA's refusal to issue minimum seat and leg room standards to address shrinking seat size and leg room by airlines: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Case 16-1101, FlyersRights Education Fund v. FAA) will hear oral argument on March 10, 2017.

Travelers United is the country's leading consumer travel advocacy group dealing with airlines, hotels, rail and bus transportation. Travelers United was the main consumer advocate that developed with DOT rules that provide 24 hours to correct mistakes in airline bookings, full-fare advertising rules, increases in lost/denied/delayed baggage compensation and denied boarding compensation. Travelers United also has lead efforts to eliminate hotel resort fees and develop cruise line consumer protections.

Class Warfare
 Get less for more with Basic Economy 

Well, we warned you it was coming - now it's official:

American Airlines  yesterday trotted out its new Basic Economy fares at its hubs, DFW, PHL, MIA and CLT and TPA, MSY, BWI and FLL. 
If you've flown economy class recently, you know it's already extremely "basic". how much more "basic" they can go?

As their press release enthuses, paying more for less is a good thing! It gives consumers "choices" as to which services to pay for.

Except, it's not giving customers more options when you're taking away options they had, for the same price. This is a hidden fee. It's also a blow to consumers in an industry reporting record profits. United Airlines made it clear it expects Economy Basic to collect $1 billion by 2020 - proof it isn't intended to produce lower fares, it's designed to restrict the number of the lowest fares being offered and increase auxiliary fees.

However, airline defenders still sell it as a way of keeping fares low. But, in reality, this new low fare was the old, you-get-to-choose-your-seat-and-bring-a-carry-on-too, fare, (and that fare just got raised another $60.)

Today, for example, let's say FLL- JFK is $200 round trip. With the new Basic Economy ticket, FLL-JFK will remain $200 but the regular economy ticket, what you used to get for $200, will now be $220.

Probably the biggest impact will be restricting interline agreements when rebooking passengers in Basic Economy. That is, in the event of a flight cancellation or severe delay, AA's interline agreements won't help you, because AA has stated that Basic Economy passengers are not eligible to be reaccommodated on other airlines.

Needless to say, Basic Economy fares are not welcome news to many business flyers who are required to book the absolute cheapest base fare. 

Monkey See Monkey Do - Following the Spirit model?

These legacy airlines say it allows them to compete with low-cost Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier. But that's not the case since their fares will not be any cheaper. AA's president said it himself, "its not a new discount, its a new set of features for our lowest fares" - as in, a new set of reductions in features for our lowest fares.

The usual response from airline advocates is 'nobody is forcing anyone to pay these fares' - and - 'air travel is not a constitutional right.'

But air transportation is very much a commodity and an essential service.

Presently, the domestic airline industry is very much an oligopoly. It's all about reducing competition, squeezing your patrons and diluting the offering. Legacy carriers also dominate gates and slots at key airports and create barriers for new entrants.

Business class passengers may say, "Why should I be concerned? It doesn't affect me." But once the airlines begin on this path of diluting product and services, they will eventually work their way to every class of service.

It will be interesting to see just how much more people are willing to put up with before standards bottom out. 

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Now Fear This

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Now Fear This
February 16, 2017

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, left, and Delta Airlines CEO Edward Bastian, right, had a meeting at the White House last Thursday. (REUTERS)
We're hearing more and more stories about the major US airlines going Washington and insisting the administration do something about the Middle East airlines, Norwegian Air and other international carriers.

This is nothing new, it's been going on for years.

Last week, Delta, United and Southwest airlines had a meeting at the White House - but there's not much word about what happened.

Obviously they must have asked the same thing they've always asked: Hey, these guys are subsidized, please do something, do not allow them more landing rights, block them, blah blah blah.

We'll see, but this is an ongoing trend.

And the comment from Trump - about 'obsolete' infrastructure for planes, trains and roads, seemed like a strange tangent.

Whether anything concrete came out of the meeting, we don't know yet.

But, we're sure the Middle East airlines and Norwegian will be watching very closely to see what transpires in the short term, and long term, because it could be very disruptive.

Boeing Quality Control Back in the News

Randall Hill/Reuters
Through some good investigative work, the Seattle Times printed details of d ocuments they won through a Freedom of Information Act request showing "a disquieting pattern of falsified paperwork and ignored procedures that created quality issues on the production lines of Boeing and its suppliers."

The newspaper revealed previously undisclosed details of a $12 million fine from several Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigations in 2015.

The FAA also put Boeing on probation for five years, subject to $24 million in additional penalties if it fails to carry through on compulsory improvements outlined in the report.

"Intentionally Falsifying Papers"

The piece chronicles a half dozen examples of careless conditions involving fuel leaks, missing tools, crossed wires.

In January 2015, a mechanic rigging a large 777 cargo door at a Boeing supplier was questioned about his work by an FAA investigator. The mechanic acknowledged that "he does not use the inspection tools required and enters false inspection data on the work order."

Nope, Nothing To See Here Folks

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said, "None of these matters involved immediate safety of flight."

FlyersRights member and Washington state resident J.R. commented, "{Boeing's} move to Chicago with manufacturing plants to South Carolina are behind the erosion of trust and quality.  Unions also protect quality of work when someone speaks up."

The takeaway from the investigation is that Boeing's "official" production documentation did not match what workers on the shop floor actually did.

This is unacceptable at best and unlawful at least. We (the public) pay for, and rely upon, this entire system to work properly.  

We are happy to hear the FAA is doing their job. Oversight and accountability saves lives. Without it, the result is what happened to Alaska flight 261- a worn out jackscrew overlooked in routine maintenance.

However, as far as the $12 million goes, that is a drop in the bucket for a industry as large as Boeing. 

Correction to last week's newsletter:

We try to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible.  Six hours after we sent out the newsletter for proofreading, and soon after we made other corrections and posted it, one of our proofreaders alerted us to this;
On the other hand, "no more competition" is the opposite of Trump's economic program for some industries, such as pharmaceuticals....maybe.  There seems to be nothing predictable with Trump from minute to minute."
suggesting that we add the part starting with '...maybe'.
He referenced this article: which had been posted as he was proofing the newsletter.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Through The Looking-Glass,
"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
  We apologize for the unpredictable error in timing.


Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Keep Out!

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Keep Out!

February 8, 2017
Barbarians at the gate

Apparently, being freed from consumer protection laws is not enough for the airlines. 

They also seek to stop foreign competition from airlines such as Norwegian Air, WOW Airlines and Emirates. 

Blocking foreign competition will result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Higher ticket prices will directly affect all who fly various US airlines, and so it's important to make sure this issue stays in the spotlight.

CEOs from American, Delta and United will meet with President Trump Thursday, and likely will discuss placing  limits on foreign air competition, and  air traffic control privatization.

As profits soar to record levels, passengers are enduring reductions in flights, shrinking seats, and less reliable air travel, especially from small- and medium-size cities.
The major US carriers want to keep out the big Mid-East airlines: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

Paul Hudson, president of and member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, compared the airline industry now to the railroad industry in the 19th century: "Then, railroads controlled long-distance transportation as well as the courts and government regulators. A new word was coined to describe their abusive treatment of the public: being 'railroaded'. Today, Americans are being 'airlined.'"

Furthermore, the airlines are pushing for privatization of the Air Traffic Control system. The plan for privatization leaves little room for government supervision over an inherently governmental function, would transfer all government air traffic control to an AMTRAK-like entity controlled by the airlines, and grant a long list of demands sought by the air controller union, including the right to strike. Such legislation was passed by the House in the last Congress but not acted on by the Senate.

Guessing what Trump will do is like a crapshoot

On the one hand, Trump's view of the airline industry may be colored not by what the current state of the airline industry, but what his experience was back in the late 80s and 90s.
Trump Airlines launched in 1989 and offered hourly  flights between Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.
Trump purchased Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, which had been offering hourly flights on the East Coast since 1961 with moderate success. The airline had succeeded because of its no-frills service, you didn't need a reservation ahead of time, there were no seat assignments, no check-ins, and no boarding passes. You could show up and hop on a plane for cheap. 

When Trump bought 17 of the company's Boeing 727s for $365 million in 1988 he added maple-wood veneer, chrome seat-belt latches and gold-colored bathroom fixtures.
This alienated customers, and with the high fuel prices of the late 80s, resulted in Trump Airlines never turning a profit in its 4 years. As Time 
explains: The high debt forced Trump to default on his loans and ownership of the company was turned over to creditors. The Trump Shuttle ceased to exist in 1992 when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc. 

He may assume its the airline industry is pretty much the same as it was back then, which it most certainly is not.

On the other hand, "no more competition" is the opposite of Trump's economic program for some industries, such as pharmaceuticals.

Alternative Facts

Now American, Delta and United have a chance to present their version of "alternative facts" to a new administration that has already admitted through its principal spokespersons that facts be damned.

These Big 3 airlines will seek to maintain their high-fare, poor service death grip on US travelers by suppressing competition from domestic as well as foreign airlines.

In addition, they love getting all sorts of goodies from taxpayers, be it in the form of sales tax exemptions, state and municipal funding (direct and indirect in the form of payments, guarantees, or landing fee exemptions to begin service in new cities and below market interest rates from municipal bonds, respectively), plus the vast array of tools from the tax code, bankruptcy protection and more offered at the federal level.

They held out their hand to Congress and pleaded for substantial taxpayer funded bailouts in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks. So the notion that the playing field is unfair because they are facing heavily subsidized foreign competitors are, again, alternative facts.

Meanwhile, US airline profits have soared to record levels as four big airlines control 85% of ever shrinking seats, while passengers face reduction in flights, longer less reliable air travel especially from small and medium size cities.

We hope that FedEx, UPS, jetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines and others will have an opportunity to debunk the myths presented by the CEOs of the "Big 3" legacy carriers on Thursday's upcoming meeting at the White House.

President Trump should follow the example of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John Kennedy who stood up to corporate leaders engaged in abuses, not that of his immediate predecessors, who enabled the present state of US air travel: ever worsening service with fares now much higher than in the EU and most other nations. 

Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 

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Hall of Blame

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Hall of Blame

February 2, 2017

Demonstrators crowd the international terminal as they protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations, at San Francisco International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.
AP Photo
The demonstrators blamed Trump, Trump blamed Delta, Delta blamed computers, conspirators blamed Russian hackers and ESPN's Sage Steele blamed protesters.

Around and around it went last weekend, during airport
  confusion and mayhem as travelers in-transit to the US were stopped in airports world-wide, affecting  many US passengers with connections. 

This just happened to coincide with Delta's second 'systems outage' in under six months.

"I want to apologize to all of our customers who have been impacted by this frustrating situation," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. "This type of disruption is not acceptable to the Delta family who prides itself on reliability and customer service. I also want to thank our employees who are working tirelessly to accommodate our customers."

Boy, does that sound familiar.

But it was the widespread protests against President Trump's executive order to suspend immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen that raised the question: Will the US lose tourists who feel the US is not a desirable place to spend holidays at the moment?

There are no flights directly from the affected Muslim countries into the US. And  the US big three airlines have no flights to or from the seven countries outlined in the ban. Regardless,  Iran and Iraq  took steps  to bar Americans.

Now, the concern is a general "knock-on" effect - that international travelers could change or postpone their planned business or vacation plans to the US. 

For passengers with dual nationality, former residency or citizenship, US passports, Green Cards and valid visa holders, there are many uncertainties. 

Airlines are supposed to be able to answer questions and enforce policies, but many, it seems, don't know what to do. 

Tips for international travel for non-US citizens to the US:  go to which has up to date information on visas or other requirements.

US passengers can no longer assume that their US passport will allow travel to nearly all countries without a visa, it is always best to check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit.  After 9/11 some countries in retaliation for new restrictions imposed on their citizens to visit the US, added fees and visa requirements for US 


Your Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:

Due to the executive order by President Trump barring citizens from several countries from entering the USA for 90 days some legal questions have occurred.

One of them is: if it (legally binding) turns out that the executive order is an unlawful/illegal act, are there any claims for compensation possible? If yes: what kind of compensation would be possible (e.g. for the flight costs, for immaterial damage)? And against who will you file a lawsuit?

I hope that also your new administration will have a focus on delay compensation issues.

Best regards,

Felix Methmann
Policy Officer
Team mobility & travel
Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V.
Federation of German Consumer Organisations
Markgrafenstra├če 66, 10969 Berlin

The Montreal Convention which covers claims for delay against passengers does not provide for compensation from governments.
The US government and other governments have sovereign immunity from civil suits unless there is a law which waives it. National security or immigration or visa regulations even if unfairly applied would not likely provide for a waiver.
That said if an airline were to provide misinformation to a passenger causing delay it might be liable for delay compensation IMO.  Also if a dual citizen or legal US resident was unlawfully or unconstitutionally detained they might have rights under US civil rights laws. Travel insurance might in some cases provide for delay compensation. is hoping to organize and host an international conference on  airline passenger rights in June or July in Washington DC. The objective  would be to train NGO representatives, government workers and attorneys who advise or represent travelers.  We are looking for expressions of interest, cosponsors, and speakers. 
Paul Hudson

In response to last week's newsletter: No Overhead

Dear FlyersRights:

The airlines should charge to put "carry ons" in overhead bins and not charge extra  to "check" suitcases.  It is a nightmare getting on planes now as everyone is fighting for overhead bin space, plus it slows down boarding. On top of that,  I hate getting to my seat and finding that there is no bin space anywhere near my seat because someone has taken my real estate with all their stuff.  Many times people are carrying on more than one bag (no one stops them) and cramming up the bins. 
Airlines should charge one fee and allow a suitcase to be "booked" like it used to be.
D. L. Unger
Richmond, va

Dear FlyersRights:

I respectfully disagree with one statement in Mr. Hudson's message. Denver International Airport, a completely new airport at the time it was built - not an overhaul or expansion, was opened Feb 28th, 1995.  As of 2015, Denver is the 6th busiest airport in the US and 18th busiest in the world. I would ask that he consider amending his statement.  

Brock B.

DIA was started in 1980 and took 15 years to
Build. The existing airport Stapleton was closed and plowed under
With a housing project constructed on the site,
So there could be no competition with the
New far away from town airport.

Paul Hudson

You should post a correction: President Trump is a builder, but only if it enriches himself. That vast majority of projects that bear his name got there by licensing, not building.

I have no illusions that this president will do anything for the public good.

Beverly B.
The FlyersRights® Insider

This week's travel-related information tips and suggestions for our readers and members.

How to get through Customs by taking a selfie -

Things you should not eat on an airplane -

Why planes shouldn't have free Wi-Fi -
Google's New Pixel and Home Devices for Travel -

The above articles can be viewed by clicking on the link.  For more in-depth and up-to-date information on these items, please refer to the source.

Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible. 

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