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Sunday, March 29, 2015

FlyersRights.org
Igniting A Debate
March 24, 2015
















Last week, KLM flight attendants put out a fire in an overhead compartment 'caused by a lithium-ion battery in passenger's hand luggage' on flight from Amsterdam to Bangkok.

Mobile phones, laptops and tablet computers are powered by lithium batteries. 

A KLM spokesperson said the incident occurred when the Boeing 777 carrying 321 passengers plus crew was taxiing to its gate at Bangkok International Airport after flying in from Amsterdam.

Laptop fire at LAX
A Lithium battery fire example in a laptop at LAX
In response, last week Boeing and other aircraft makers pressed for a ban on bulk lithium battery shipments on passenger planes, saying the threat of fires is 'an unacceptable risk'.
What happens if the fire starts in the luggage compartment? 

New research shows that lithium batteries can explode and burn even more violently than previously thought, raising questions about their use and shipment on passenger airplanes.
A United Parcel Service cargo plane was carrying 81,000 lithium batteries when it caught fire and crashed after taking off from Dubai on Sept. 3, 2010.
Malaysian Airlines flight 370 was carrying a 440 pounds of lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold when it vanished over the South China Sea.
For years FlyersRights challenged the safety of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner over its lithium-ion batteries that is used to run its electrical system, and disputed the FAA's policy of delegating safety and regulatory authority to Boeing.

Cockpit Smoke Reported An Average Of Four Times A Month

From 2000 to 2013, more than 650 incidents of smoke in the cockpit have been reported to the FAA, according to the USA Today.

Over 200 emergency landings a year in the US are typically due to smoke or fire. A December 2014 DOT Advisory Circular (AC) about in-flight fires indirectly reveals the alarming lack of defense against airliner fires.
 
FlyersRights president Paul Hudson said, "After reading this, I cannot understand how the FAA could possibly permit two-engine planes like the Boeing 787 with fire prone lithium ion batteries to fly up to 5 1/2 hours from the nearest landing zone. This AC points out that fires not discovered and extinguished can become uncontrollable within 6-10 minutes and destroy an aircraft with 20 minutes."

"The biggest danger of the long haul over ocean flights that are up to 5 hours from the nearest landing zone is that their emergency landing defense in case of fire is increasingly impractical," Hudson said.
 
Also, the newer commercial airliners, Airbus 360 or 380 and Boeing 787 have order of magnitude increases in electrical power over older aircraft.

Allowing passengers to use laptops and other electronic devices and soon to provide plug in recharge outlets at seats adds hundreds of new potential sources of overheating, fire and smoke, which may increase the risks by 10 to several hundred fold.
 
To date, the FAA has ignored the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendations and its own prior safety criteria regarding lithium-ion batteries on airliners.

Unfare-
Airlines:"What fuel surcharges?"

Remember the hornet's nest we public advocates stirred up a few months back when we called for an end to the airlines' phony 'fuel surcharge'?
Even Senator Charles Schumer jumped into the fray, demanding a federal probe into airline prices.
A rule change from the DOT tried to fix that problem by requiring airlines to link fuel costs to the actual price of oil, and be transparent about costs that make up the fares.
FlyersRights hasn't heard anything about fuel upcharges since then, so we checked in with the airlines to see if these phony fees have been eliminated.
Well, the clever airlines have quietly removed "fuel surcharge" from their vocabulary, but replaced it with "airline fees"and "carrier-imposed charges".
By avoiding the word "fuel," and saying these are fees the airlines themselves (and not the government) are tacking on, the airlines skillfully duck the new DOT rules.
The Whole Pricing Equation Is Fraudulent
As the Wall St. Journal's Scott McCartney reported, fuel surcharges were never calculated based on the cost of fuel.
Fuel is an airlines' biggest operating cost. So if that is true, then the assertion the surcharges do not factor in the cost of fuel is deceptive.

Who isn't tired of "carrier imposed charges" by airlines, or mandatory "resort fees" by resorts and junk fees by car rental companies?  

Near-Perfect Obfuscation

The big US carriers have become very profitable enterprises by obfuscating the true cost of what they're selling, and changing the terminology to escape regulations.  

We are seeing a demonstration of what most consumers already know: Once a fee goes on, it never comes off. When these surcharges first popped up, airlines defended them by insisting that fuel is their biggest cost. Now airlines are protecting their surcharges by saying other costs have gone up.
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president, believes that a complaint filed with DOT is appropriate, "To fine airlines for using a deceptive practice of fuel surcharges to raise fares in violation of DOT guidelines and to evade excise taxes."

He adds, "Only competition is likely to lower air fares. DOT can pressure airlines but this would require, in my opinion, jaw-boning by the DOT Secretary or President Obama."



Thursday, March 19, 2015

FlyersRights.org
TSA Gone Wild
March 17, 2015
Finally, other media outlets have followed FlyersRights' lead and raised the alarm on TSA's new PreCheck data-mining program. 

Stick em up. A wall poster at Eugene Airport in Oregon directs passengers at the TSA screening area to raise up their arms, form an O with their hands and stay that way for 3 seconds. #GoodSheep.
As we wrote about in January, the new, juiced up PreCheck program which applicants pay $85 for, gave private companies access to citizens' social media posts, banking, mail order, supermarket, gas, electricity and telephone data, press reports, location info and more while doing background and fingerprint checks.

It was sold as a program that'll allow people the kind of freedom in an airport that they used to have - the freedom from being hassled, groped and degraded for the privilege of traveling.
The question becomes, how many of our rights are we supposed to give up for the illusion of safety?

In response to the backlash from FlyersRights and other advocates, the TSA last month abruptly withdrew requests for proposals. Among those concerned was Thomas P. Bossert, a security consultant and a former Homeland Security aide to President George W. Bush, who said it represented a "massive expansion and outsourcing of the government's data-mining."
The TSA said it's now revising its request for proposals because of "some difficulties" with the language. The agency intends to proceed with its plan to hire private companies to get more travelers into PreCheck, which now has about 950,000 members.

Where Have All The Air Marshals Gone?

TSA's budget cuts for 2015 mean resources for its Air Marshal program is on the decline and large numbers of U.S. Air Marshals are fleeing the skies, reports the National Review.

Robert MacLean testifying before Congress Sept. 2014 on the treatment of TSA and VA whistleblowers
Robert MacLean, a former air marshal, TSA whistleblower and U.S. Supreme Court victor spoke with FlyersRights on the subject.

MacLean told FlyersRights that the Federal Air Marshal Program (FAM) should never have become an agency in the first place, but remained a detail - ideally made up of federal and local police working as FAM reservists who would be deployed when there is a specific threat.

FR: So, the FAM program is a waste of resources and doesn't provide needed security?

RM: "For the most part. Why isn't every aircraft outfitted with secondary barriers, tasers and restraint systems to control unruly passengers, and install a remote-locked modified shotgun into every flight deck? A short, pistol-gripped, scatter-pellet, pump-action shotgun is EVERY flight deck is much more effective and less hazardous than the .40 cal. handguns too few pilots carry because they have to pay to fly and lodge for the one week of mandatory TSA training. A firearms instructor can teach you how to pump, point, and shoot a scatter-gun in one hour.

Congress needs to pass a law to indemnify hero passengers. Passengers right now are hesitant to act believing there's an air marshal team on board. Google: 'unruly passenger air marshal arrest', why isn't anyone alarmed that an unruly passenger may be a terrorist ruse to ambush an air marshal overly anxious to make his/her first arrest ever after hundreds of missions without incident?"

FR: Are air marshals leaving because they feel the agency is not protecting them as the National Review says, or are they being pushed out to save costs?

RM: "I believe they want to flush out the street-experienced law enforcement officers and hire a bunch of very young yes-men who they can pay significantly less. After three years of being seated and maxed-out in their career field, air marshals can become disgruntled and hard to contain their frustration. An air marshal should have at least five years of street or military experience before planted into a chair only to wait for something that may never happen."

FR: $820 million is spent annually on the Federal Air Marshal program. So you're saying it's better to outfit aircraft with other barriers, i.e. tasers and firearms in the flight deck with NO air marshal onboard?

RM: "Do you really think terrorists are planning to have a gun fight as their attack? The principal threat are hidden bombs. For the "Hollywood doomsday scenario" of a airborne gun-battle: the pilots should have the ability to depressurize the cabin and put to sleep a hyperventilating, tachycardia killer with a gun." 

FR: Then why was the FAM program ever invented, if it is unnecessary to thwart an attack?
RM: "It made many retired Secret Service agents very financially comfortable able to collect collect second federal check -- a nice reward for protecting past presidents. The program also made a lot of contractors wealthy, who in turn would hire retired Secret Service-to-TSA executives: "the revolving door."


FR: Lastly, what do you think of TSA's new data-mining program behind PreCheck? 

RM: "It's very encouraging. You may not like what I say, but I believe passengers must surrender most of their 4th Amendment rights to fly in a missile of mass destruction. I'm terribly paranoid of a bomb being smuggled or 'muled' into a jet. I strongly believe that if you need that extra privacy, then you should not fly in a crowded tube, 40,000 feet up, at 500 miles per hour.

I do believe in some form of FAM program, but done as a reserve one open to local police. Let's say there's a Tokyo/Seattle threat, you can quickly deploy 100 Seattle area police and sheriff's deputies to fly that route."

Recently I spent many hours with congressional staffers to address the misappropriation of tax money that the public thinks it's protecting inflight security -- I opened up many eyes very wide." 
Which Flight Will Get You There Fastest? A Better Way To Find The Best Flights And Avoid The Worst Airports

Cool interactive websites tell you which airlines perform the best on which routes and which airports you should avoid:


Consider making a secured donation to FlyersRights.
The loudest advocates and largest organization representing airline passengers


Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
Sign our Petition 
for a Passenger Bill of Rights

                             
                             
                      Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
                      with Paul Hudson, President


Send comments and tips to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org or on Twitter@KendallFlyers.




This email was sent to kendallc@flyersrights.org by kendallc@flyersrights.org  

FlyersRights.org | 4411 Bee Ridge Road | Sarasota | FL | 34233

Thursday, March 12, 2015



FlyersRights.org
Let's Make A Deal
March 10, 2015
It's open season on the Open Skies talks in Washington. 

Emirates Airlines is now putting together a team from its legal, strategic and financial departments to hit back at allegations from US airlines that it used unfair business methods to become one of the leading forces in global aviation.

Tim Clark, the Emirates president, is also planning to fly to Washington to meet officials from the Department of Transportation to head off any new restrictions to the current open skies policy. Detailed allegations were contained in a briefing last week.

As FlyersRights has been writing about, the big three US airlines don't like what they see as 'unfair' competition from abroad, and they're asking the government to close an iron curtain to keep out foreign competition.

The dispute is about more than Delta, United and American Airlines vs. Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways. It also is a battle between the U.S. carriers and consumer groups, and it's likely to draw in such aviation industry heavyweights as Boeing and FedEx, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The U.S. airlines are accusing their Persian Gulf rivals of receiving over $40 billion in improper subsidies since 2004 from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. 

The Gulf carriers deny receiving subsidies and Qatar Airways Chief Executive says the US airlines had themselves received backdoor subsidies via Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The US big three airlines can't deny this. A GAO report says US airlines have shed over $23 billion worth of liabilities, dumped leases they agreed to and reneged on employee contracts.

The US airlines like to say they're concerned about their employees but factoring in pensions liabilities offloaded on taxpayers, (some websites think it may be as high as $30 billion) and the payments made to airlines after 9/11, it adds up to benefits similar level to that the US airlines claim to have been taken by the Gulf carriers.  

The US Airlines also enjoy anti-trust immunity protection with their airline alliances, which could be seen as a subsidy not only for US airlines but their European partners as well.

In sum, this has nothing to do with the fairness of the market or US jobs, it's about protecting profits.

The US airlines are dressing this up as some noble crusade for the US people but it is a selfish act. 

Perhaps we know better what protectionism does. Usually it does not save the corporation it protects, but makes them lazy, less competitive and leaves a wrecked industry.
Commerce Soaring in Airports
Our attention in airports is now being monetized, while silence and non-commercial space are in short supply.

Consider the commercial detritus and visual pollution in US airports that begins at TSA. The security bins are often pimped out with advertisements. 
The NYTimes recently asked, who approved this? 

Next is the departure gates, with the audible graffiti of nonstop blaring TVs and the moving handrails on the escalators now encased in ads. 

In fact, there are almost no fields of view that haven't been claimed for commerce in an airport terminal because the people in them are captive.

We're increasingly under mental and emotional siege, from the ads, to the monitors - it's an unnecessary commercial cacophony. An airport is no longer a place to relax and read a book waiting to board, instead, it's an assault.

When you finally get onboard, there are video screens plastered on the seatback in front of each pair of eyes, where it's very difficult to tune out ads. Then a flight attendant comes around to pitch an application for the airline's credit card.
At what cost? For coach class pasengers thinking they're paying fewer dollars, the truth is they're paying more in other ways: uncomfortable and unhealthy seating is obvious. But they're now paying more than in the past because their time is being sold for ads, yet they get no fare discounts for the profits the airlines make from selling these ads.

This is not insignificant.
Consider making a secured donation to FlyersRights.
The loudest advocates and largest organization representing airline passengers

Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:
Sign our Petition 
for a Passenger Bill of Rights


Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
with Paul Hudson, President

Send comments and tips to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org or on Twitter @KendallFlyers.




This email was sent to kendall44@gmail.com by kendallc@flyersrights.org |  

FlyersRights.org | 4411 Bee Ridge Road | Sarasota | FL | 34233

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

FlyersRights.org
UnFree America
March 3, 2015
What could possibly go wrong on a 30 minute flight?

Everything.

In a throwback to the bad old days pre-2007, passengers were stranded for nine hours aboard an American Airlines flight grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Friday.

Yet, according to the airline, the nine-hour delay did not violate the Department of Transportation's three-hour limit because the plane was not actually held on the tarmac.

FlyersRights, the pre-eminent airline passenger rights organization, is appalled about AA circumventing our 3-Hour Tarmac Rule.

We are aware that the Department of Transportation, who published the rule to protect the flying public from extremely long tarmac delays, left a loophole that is now harming consumers who fly on commercial airlines in the United states.

That loophole is that 'Gate Time', which is not included in 'Tarmac Time' for purposes of following the rule. Consumers do not know the difference.

If they are not given the opportunity to deplane after 3 hours, any time stuck in a plane whether it's at the gate or pushed back in the penalty box should be considered Tarmac Time.

DVT Dangers

According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) the chances of blood clots doubles when passengers are seated more than 3 hours.  Being confined for 9 hours with passengers being told to stay in their seats often with seat belts fastened was a common practice by airlines causing a health danger before enactment of the 3-Hour Rule. 

  Investigation Required

The DOT and Congress through the GAO needs an expedited investigation not only of this flight, but more generally:

-Why American Airlines (AA) apparently failed to have adequate de-icing facilities at its main hub in Dallas, known for ice storms in winter,

-Whether AA has been claiming this 'at-the-gate' loophole to avoid fines for holding passengers over 3 hours on other flights, 
-Why AA has been allowed to redefined 'Acts of God' in its contract of carriage to include anything and everything along with matters within its control so it can avoid giving vouchers for hotels and meals to stranded passengers,

-Whether AA intentionally  failed to bring in more personnel and equipment to minimize expenses and virtually shut down its customer service phone lines during even the mildest storms this winter (listen here to AA's 'help line' customer service) causing passengers to be stranded for up to 3 or 4 days,

-Whether AA flight crew threatened and intimidated passengers on this flight with no refunds, no baggage, no re boarding if they exercised their right to deplane,

-Whether AA flight crew knew they were going to time-out and cause further delay but hid this and otherwise provided passengers with misinformation of imminent departure to hold them on the tarmac, minimize airline liability to passengers and maximize their compensation.

Kate Hanni, founder-emeritus of FlyersRights and largely responsible for the tarmac delay rules was stuck on an AA flight for nine hours in 2006 and not given the opportunity to deplane.

She reported, "After four hours, conditions were so hellish that people were revolting after listening to screaming babies, toilets overflowing, no food or water, no ability to get off the plane.

The disintegrating set of conditions worsened until people began to threaten the pilot that they would take over the plane were he not to pull in to a gate, with or without permission from AA's management."

American Airlines Flight Delayed 9 Hours by Heavy Snow, Mechanical Problem
AA Flight Delayed 9 Hours

"The tarmac delay rules were meant to prevent this type of behavior by commercial carriers in the US. Clearly those rules have loopholes that must be closed to protect the flying public." Hanni said.

However, American Airline spokesperson
  Matt Miller insisted, " The period of time that the jet was delayed on the tarmac waiting did not exceed three hours. Because the plane was not held on the tarmac, the delays did not violate the three-hour limit set by the Department of Transportation."

Miller also said, "Passengers were allowed to exit, remaining in the gate area while crews also dealt with an air conditioning issue on board. Some passengers opted to stay on the jet." 
 

AA's statement of events is different from eyewitness testimony of a passenger on-board, Brandon Sullivan, who spoke to FlyersRights. 

He said,  "O riginally we were told we could not re-board if we got off, but eventually had a 10-15 min period we could leave to get food, but  many stayed on, though, fearing plane would leave without them."

"They limited (deplaning) to 3-5 people at a time for only about 30 mins and we were very rushed - to only go to food across from gate," Sullivan said.

FlyersRights asked Sullivan if the captain told passengers that if they deplaned they could not get back on.


Sullivan replied, "For the first 3-4 hrs yes. Then let 3-5 at a time go, but he warned the plane could go."


Others echoed this type of coersion; (The captain will announce), "You can get off the plane but you won't get your luggage or a refund." "The plane will be ready in one hour". Then one hour later... "We had an issue but it has been solved it should only be one hour." "We found another issue but it will only be about 1 more hour." "You can get off but it will be solved shortly".....and on and on and on. Been there, said one commenter on the DailyMail.


Another question was, if the weather was so extreme at DFW, then why were Delta and United still flying in and out?


Message from Kate Hanni

Over the weekend, American Airlines callously disregarded the tarmac delay rules that Flyersrights.org fought so hard for and won.  It's clear that American Airlines utilized a little known loophole in the regulation which doesn't count "gate time" as "tarmac time."  We worked hard, fought hard, and won the battle...but we didn't win the war.

If we are to get the Department of Transportation to close that loophole, and convince Congress to pass more airline passengers' rights regulations that further protect the flying public, we need your help and need it now.

We not only need our membership to call their members of Congress, write letters to their members and fax them, we desperately need donations to continue our work on your behalf.

IN the nearly 8 years that FlyersRights.org has been in action we have:

1)      Achieved the tarmac delay rule
2)      Transparency of baggage fees
3)      Full fare advertising
4)      Ban on post purchase price ticket increases
5)      Been reporting on tarmac delays to include cancelled, diverted and multiple gate return flights
6)      Required airlines to provide "no child left unbuckled" regulations ensuring infants and toddlers FAA approved seats will fit in economy class seats
7)      Twice doubled the "bumping compensation"
8)      Required mandates for airlines to post stats on chronically delayed and chronically cancelled flights
9)      Forced airports to have food and drinks for stranded passengers
10)    Forced airlines to provide snacks and water during any tarmac delay
11)    Achieved DOT enforcement and fines for violation of the tarmac delay rules

And much more!

For our work to continue we must have your help

 

Letters!  
Dear FlyersRights:

I'm a supporter for years (ever since Kate helped me get a refund from British Air several years ago for a burned out engine they took off with from Johannesburg Airport that grounded us). Thank you for doing such a great job.

I have a question about a flight I'm about to take from Los Angeles to Heathrow on American, with a connection on to Edinburgh on Virgin Atlantic.

I originally had 3.5 hours at Heathrow between flights when I originally booked them, plenty of time to get from one terminal to the other.

Last week, I got an email from American telling me they were delaying the departure time of my flight from Los Angeles by 2.5 hours, now leaving me slightly less than one hour to get from terminal 3, where the American flight arrives, to terminal 4, where the departure gate is for my Virgin flight. That's a tight squeeze as it is, since Heathrow is so big, but if my American flight has any kind of a delay there's no way I'll make the connection.

When I called American to ask what they'd do if I missed my ongoing flight, they asked if that flight was also on American.  When I said it wasn't, I was told that all my ticket obligates them to do is to get me from Los Angeles to London. That's it.   I said yes, but the ticket I bought was to get me there at 1:30 PM not 4 PM and that they're now putting me under a lot of pressure. The person I spoke to said, "There's nothing I can do about that".  End of story.

My question, if you know anything about this is, what exactly they are obligated to do if I miss that connection and there isn't another Edinburgh flight till very late or even the next day?

Any advice you can give me on how to handle this with American would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,
-DB

As the airline has unilaterally changed its schedule, you should be able to get a refund from American for your flight to Heathrow if the airline refuses to change your flight without change fee or other added cost.   
Also the Montreal Convention of 1999 provides for compensation for flight delays up to about $6,000 which overrides any contrary provisions in the airline's contract of carriage.   The EU also has set compensation for flight delays by airlines.  See Europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm 

You can also complain to the DOT as to change schedules so as to cause passengers to miss connections is clearly an unfair and deceptive practice, and send us a copy.
An airline license from the FAA to provide air transportation to the public, called a certificate of public convenience, requires that it offer service on a fixed announced schedule, so changing it at will for the commercial convenience of the airline without accommodation for inconvenienced passengers would be considered a violation.
You can also check the on-time statistic for the flight you are concerned about. 
  
Thank you for your membership.  If this has been helpful, please keep us in mind for your charitable donations as Flyersrights.org depends solely on donations from the traveling public.
   
Paul Hudson, .Pres.
Flyersrights.org

To answer his question specifically, if he misses his connection due to the AA flight being late he would be entitled to the EU compensation that Paul outlined in his message.  But he may miss the connection even if the flight is on time, in which case he will not be entitled to any compensation and will likely incur charges changing or entirely rebooking his Virgin flight. 

As Paul said he is entitled to a refund from American (but not from Virgin).  His best course of action would be to change his AA flight to an earlier one or even the day before as is it a close connection and possibly not a "legal" connection.  He must go through customs and change terminals to get to the Virgin flight.  He should be able to make this change with no change fee as it is due to the AA schedule change. 

This illustrates a situation that we hear frequently on the hotline.  Connections are best booked through one airline, even if it is an interline ticket.  It should be one ticket and one itinerary.  That way if the first flight is delayed, the second flight is protected and can be rebooked with no change or rebooking fees.

Joel   

Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director



Dear FlyersRights:
Thanks you for your time this morning, 
As I explained, a round trip ticket with American Airlines originating in Bogota to San Francisco was canceled due to the weather, the price was $661. We  get an email 10 hours later with a flight Bogota to Miami. We decide to buy another ticket with Continental that was $2300  to be able to catch another flight form SFo to Hong Kong. WE would  like to claim the difference between the original flight and the new one, can we?  AA is offering a full refund of the $661. 
my second question a claim I should do it by writing or by phone? 
Thank you so much for your help,
-AG 

The attached gives your rights to compensation up to $6,000.  American and other airlines blame nearly every delay on weather or air traffic control, but studies show that weather is only responsible for 7% of delays and cancellations. Airlines constantly lie about the reason for delays to avoid compensation and liability.  Most are due crew and equipment shortages and breakdowns. 
You can also file a complaint with the US DOT on their web site, and send us a copy. 
  
If this information has been helpful to you, please consider a donation to
FlyersRights.org as we depend entirely on donations and support from the flying public.
 
  
Regards, 
  
Paul Hudson, Pres. 
Flyersrights.org  

Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
with Paul Hudson, President

   
  FlyersRights and Kate Hanni joined forces with Ralph Nader, 2011 in Washington, DC
Sign our Petition 
for a Passenger Bill of Rights


  
Consider making a secured donation to FlyersRights.
The loudest advocates and largest organization representing airline passengers 

Getting on a Plane? 
Put This Number in Your Phone:

Send comments and tips to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org or on Twitter@KendallFlyers.