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Tuesday, April 15, 2014



Tues., April 15, 2014

The airlines are at it yet again.

Those deceptive and infuriating ads that were banned years ago are sneaking back.

No, you cannot really fly on Spirit Airlines for $9.
Making its way thorough the U.S. House, without public submissions or any debate, is a bill called H.R. 4156, deceptively named the "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014". Translation: the "Keep Air Travelers in the Dark Act".

Written by airline lobbyists, this bill is completely anti-consumer while at the same time denigrating customers and constituents alike. It is all about making airfares less transparent. The name of the bill is just the start of the false advertising.

It is a thoroughly corrupt racket being perpetrated against the very taxpayers that have repeatedly bailed out the airlines time after time.  

How would a proposed 'Transparent' Law mislead consumers? It seeks to overturn and reverse our hard-fought 2012 Department of Transportation ruling that requires the airlines to prominently feature the full total price of their airfares.

$2 roundtrip? Seems to good to be true, because it is.
The proposed law would give airlines free rein to quote artificially low ticket prices, minus taxes and government fees, leaving you with the mistaken belief that your total airfare is far cheaper than it is.
The supporters of this bill want airlines to be able to advertise a flight without the fees and taxes added on. For example, a $300 flight would be advertised for $239 - omitting the fees and taxes.
The DOT's advertising rules were meant to eliminate shocking surprise fees and add transparency to the airfare booking process. 
So the first question is, who in our Congress is responsible for attempting to perpetrate this deception?

They are Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the sponsors of the bill, who also happen to be members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Click here for the list of co-sponsors.

Second question, how much did the airlines give to the re-election campaigns of the sponsors of this bill?

The airlines dupe Congress again and again, blogs the Travel Insider. There is no justification for this legislation, which is why there was no debate allowed prior to approving the bill and passing it out of its markup stage and sending it on to the full House.
Transparency or confusion?

According to Reps Shuster and DeFazio, the American public "wants" and is "calling for" this law.

The problem with that assertion is that it is untrue. There are NO consumer groups actively supporting this bill.  In fact, FlyersRights and virtually all other aviation consumer groups are strongly OPPOSED to it.

Another argument for this legislation is that it exposes the level of taxes and fees the government imposes on air travel.

But why would any congressman wish to expose their greedy grab of such a large slice of our air travel expenditures, the Travel Insider asks.  
Spirit Airlines cursing our full-fare disclosure laws in 2012
All airlines are already free to make as prominent a statement as they choose about how much of the ticket price you pay goes to the government and what it is for.
Another of the bill's justifications is that it places the same disclosure rules on airfares as on anything else you'd buy.

Yes it's true prices are usually quoted without sales tax, yet that is necessary because sales tax rates vary not only from state to state and from county to county, but even from city to city.  Air taxes and fees are a constant for any given airline, route and fare, no matter where the ticket is purchased.
Ready for "zero fares" madness like this?

Gas prices are a lot like airfare pricing - the price per gallon of gas includes all federal, state and local taxes and fees. 

Imagine if gas stations were to start advertising just the base cost of the gas on their signs, and only after you'd filled your tank you discovered the total cost!

What this legislation would most risk is a return to the most egregious examples of 'bait and switching' where you'd see a low advertised airfare, but only after getting all excited, and working through 95% towards paying it, do you then discover a morass of fees and surcharges - carrier imposed as well as government imposed - that total more than double the price you thought you were going to pay.

The airline industry, along with banking, cable and telecommunications, oil, healthcare, and numerous others, want less regulation, but they have demonstrated, time and time again that they are incapable of regulating themselves.  

The consumer deserves to have the final price of an airline ticket prominently displayed BEFORE taking out a credit card to pay for it.  As it is today, the consumer CAN see the whole price before booking, no last-page suprises--and that should never be changed. 

Please contact your congressional representatives and ask them to vote against HR 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act, because it does not promote transparent airfares, but rather does quite the opposite.

Now if we could only force every other kind of business to disclose the full price of their products in advertising.
Gotcha, Sucker. It's easy to get tricked by flight comparison websites that omit taxes.
Related stories: 

Transparent Airfares Act of 2014: A proposal based on lies  

Proper airfare advertising comes to U.S.

As expected, AA announced downgrades to its frequent flyer program last week on the heels of recent frequent flyer program changes at other airlines. Due to record load factors, airlines are favoring selling seats instead of giving them away.
Below are some of the highlights, or lowlights:
- For U.S. travel on or after June 1, American members can redeem miles for an unrestricted "AAnytime" award at 20,000 miles, 30,000 miles or 50,000 each way instead of the current 25,000-mile flat rate. The less-flexible "MileSAAver"awards will continue to start at 12,500 miles.

- Mile requirements will change on many international trips.

- There will be no more free checked bags for American Airlines passengers traveling on miles they earned or who paid full price for an economy seat.

- Some elite-level frequent fliers on both airlines will get to check one less free bag than before.

- No more blackout days for redeeming miles on US Airways, matching the policy at American.

- The charge for a second checked bag on trips to South America is being dropped.

Additional information available at: The Washington Post
Agents refused to let disabled woman fly because she couldn't say her own name

What kind of a security threat is a wheelchair bound stroke victim who is unable to talk or write? Apparently a big one, if TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport are to be believed.

Sherry Wright was attempting to fly with her sister to Phoenix recently, but was barred from doing so by TSA agents who set about forcing her mute sister to try to talk in order to clear security lines.

Heidi Wright, who suffered a stroke ten years ago and has been left disabled, is unable to talk to her family. This did not stop TSA screeners from demanding that she say her own name in order to board a flight. Screeners insisted on the proviso after stopping the sisters because of an expired driver's license, ABC reports.

Because she was denied from flying to Phoenix, Heidi had to take an eight-hour bus ride to the southwestern city. Sherry said she filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security.

Read More: RT.com


FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233
Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Contract  ̶W̶i̶t̶h̶ 
On America?
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
The airlines believe there are huge savings to be achieved by contracting out flying, maintenance -and now customer service 
Recently, United Airlines announced it will look for customer service bids in all non union-protected cities, about 25 stations. 
United also called a surprise meeting with its Canadian employees to inform them that their jobs were being contracted out to 'rental customer service agents'.
This trend means that soon you'll be able to buy your ticket, check-in, board the plane and fly to your destination without ever encountering a person that works for the airline.

Last week's newsletter discussed flying on the cheap from an operational standpoint when the airlines farm out flying to their regional 'partners', but the captain is making less money than the flight attendants. 
The airlines like the extra profits, but blame the regionals for problems, saying "sorry, that's a different company".
Now when you need help at the airport, the contract employees at customer service can tell you, "sorry, we don't work for the airline".
Once considered good work, airport jobs are quickly becoming one of theworst paid, least stable positions in the low-wage economy. 
report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center found that airlines and airports are increasingly outsourcing jobs to low-paying contractors, driving wages down to near-poverty levels. Salaries have fallen as much as 45 percent for some workers. 
Sometimes higher profits aren't something to cheer about.   
Poor Working Conditions and Passenger Safety
Even security screeners were, at first, outsourced to companies that paid less than the fast food employees working in the same airport. 
The U.S. Government Accountability Office warned in June 2000 that these low wages bred a dangerous environment, where turnover was high, training was spotty, and few staff were experienced at flagging potential risks. 
After September 11, the government took over security screening through the newly-created Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Though widely maligned, the TSA pays higher wages with full benefits.
'Virtual' Airlines
Manx2 crash in Cork, Ireland 2011   
Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
A virtual airline is one that has outsourced as many possible operational and business functions as it can.
Some may remember the small European airline, Manx2. 
Its planes were painted with its name. The flight attendants said, "Welcome aboard this Manx2 flight." Even the headrests and pilots' ties advertised the airline.
Then one of its planes crashed, killing the pilots and four others, and Manx2 said it wasn't an airline after all. It was only a ticket seller. Someone else was responsible for what happened in the sky.
Manx2 was once seen as a innovative, entrepreneurial start-up. "Passenger comfort and safety is our prime concern," promotional video said.
But the accident report revealed this was all an illusion, noting "systemic deficiencies at the operational, organizational and regulatory levels." No one was really in charge.
The planes were owned by a Spanish bank and leased to a Spanish company. It was then subleased to another Spanish company, Flightline, which in essence rented the plane and pilots to Manx2.
Manx 'Cat' launched the Manx2 commuter service between Belfast International Airport and Galway, 2010
Manx2, the report said, "did not wish to have the regulatory complexity" of actually running an airline. Since none of its planes had more than 19 seats, it did not need a British permit for its activities.
Here was an airline that used smoke & mirrors to avoid accountability to avoid liability and collect profits. There will be many more of these if something is not done. 
These are failures of government to create appropriate, effective regulation and to rigorously enforce the regulations. These are life and death issues. 
FlyersRights Ramping Up Pressure for Minimum Seating Space
FlyersRights teamed up with popular aviation blogger RunwayGirlNetwork to spread the word about about a key chapter of our Passenger's Bill of Rights - seat space requirements.
FlyersRights is pressuring Congress members and regulators to stop airlines from shrinking the width of coach class seats and reducing seat pitch.
Airbus ad advocating for larger seating standards
"Our immediate goal is to place a moratorium on further seat and space reduction while minimum standards are developed," says FlyersRights president Paul Hudson.
RunwayGirlNetwork reports that a number of airlines now operate widebody aircraft in high-density seating configurations with seat bottoms measuring less than 17 inches in width - less, even, than the 17-inch wide seats on Boeing 737 narrowbodies. Also, the average pitch for economy class is a humble 31 inches on long-haul flights.
FlyersRights' main concern is that seats on long-haul flights - whether operated by widebodies or narrowbodies - have shrunk below 18 inches of width and that passengers are crammed together like sardines. Hudson told RunwayGirlNetwork that airlines should "allow for space appropriate for long haul", which he pegs at "over five to six hour flights".
He added that tight seating arrangements are not only uncomfortable for passengers, but also unhealthy, as the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis grows when people are seated in restrictive, cramped spaces.
Give 'Em An Inch, And They'll Sleep For Hours
A wider seat standard is backed by research from the London Sleep Centre, which reports that sleep quality-as measured by the number and frequency of disturbances to the brain waves during the night-in an 18-inch seat is 53% better than in a 17-inch seat, and that the time taken to fall asleep in the larger seat is almost 15% less.
"When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort," said Irshaad Ebrahim, a spokesman for the London Sleep Center, which conducted the study for Airbus.
Airbus said it has always maintained a standard of 18-inch-wide seats but notes that many airlines have installed narrower seats to remain competitive.
See, there is an airline that gives a damn about passenger comfort!
Supreme Court To Frequent Flyers: 
You Have No Rights - Especially If You Complain
Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg was a frequent flyer on Northwest Airlines from Minneapolis who traveled frequently since 1999 and had achieved platinum elite status.   
Shortly after a merger with Delta Airlines, Rabi Ginsberg was advised that his membership in the program had been terminated because he had called Customer Care too many times and had been bumped too many times requiring the airline to pay him compensation, claiming this constituted "abuse."
At the time, he had complained about service on 10% of his flights, on Northwest.  According to a JD Power survey of customer satisfaction, Northwest was tied for last place, and achieved the nickname of "Northworst".  
Ginsberg alleged that the airline had terminated him from the program along with others to save money as part of its merger with Delta.
The US Supreme Court last week ruled unanimously that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA) preempts state laws and policies that consumer contracts contain an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. 
This decision removes the last shred of a possibility that airline passenger might have any consumer rights based on state laws, as do consumers of every other service or product.  
Unless the ADA is reformed or the US DOT enacts new regulations to regulate frequent flyer programs and prevent airlines from unfairly canceling membership or denying passengers from using their "earned" benefits, airlines now have the unrestricted right to  terminate frequent flyer benefits for any passenger at will.  See Northwest, Inc. v Ginsberg
The airline had appealed a US Appeal Court decision holding that "the purpose of the ADA was not to immunize the airline industry from liability for common law contract claims. Congress did not intend to convert airlines into quasi-government agencies, complete with sovereign immunity."
The Supreme Court disagreed.
But don't worry frequent flyers, the Supreme Court says even though airlines can by contract make themselves immune from all state law involving good faith or fair dealing (there are no similar federal regulations which are now the sole regulator for airlines), airline passengers are not without recourse.
They can avoid an airline with a poor reputation and possibly enroll in a more favorable rival program. Moreover, the De­partment of Transportation has the authority to investigate com­plaints about frequent flyer programs.
FlyersRights.org has, as part of its Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0 (APBOR), proposed that Frequent Flyer programs be regulated by the DOT both to provide the public with statistics on the performance of each program, so they can evaluate them and by requiring reasonable notice before making changes that devaluate frequent flyer miles.  
The DOT already has authority to investigate and prohibit "unfair or deceptive" airline practices, but has apparently never used this authority to prevent or prohibit airlines from acting in bad faith in terminating passengers from these programs. 
APBOR would also have Congress amend the ADA to reverse the interpretations of the federal courts which have granted airlines immunity from all state and local consumer protection laws and most torts not resulting in physical injury or death.  
FlyersRights Needs Volunteers! Email Paul Hudson.
FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 
Thank you. 
  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 
Sarasota, FL 34233
Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president
We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.