The Road Ahead
Help Us Succeed
What Kate’s Saying
Airlines once imprisoned tens of thousands of passengers a year in planes that sat on the tarmac for countless hours. Over the last few years, the airlines have latched onto the idea of “unbundling” or separating what was once our expected level of service into a baffling array of “services” for which they charge a fee.
Attempting to protect us in the post-9/11 world, our government created the Department of Homeland Security. This spawned the Transportation Security Administration, charged with security of travel. The TSA, in the view of many Americans, trampled our rights and stole some of our freedoms in the name of that security.
Then, on December 29, 2006, American Airlines trapped the wrong woman, Kate Hanni, in an airline cabin, and the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (CAPBOR) was born. Today, we’re known as FlyersRights.org, and Kate is the strong voice for our more than 33,000 members.
Kate’s very public advocacy for airline passenger rights has kept our issues in front of America’s media, government agencies, Congress, and the airlines. With strong support from senators and representatives, other consumer action groups, labor organizations, and a huge list of national and local media personalities, our grassroots, member-financed organization has achieved remarkable success.
On April 29, 2010, the Department of Transportation (DOT) put into effect the Three-Hour Tarmac Rule. In the seven months after the rule’s implementation,extended tarmac delays on domestic flights dropped from hundreds a year to 16. On August 23, 2011, further DOT rulemakings provided more passenger protections. Taxes and fees are now posted as part of the price. The airlines now must return the 50 bucks they charged you for a checked bag if they lose that bag! Airline communications to passengers regarding delays and changes now are much faster and more proactive.
We’ve also taken on the TSA. We want safe air travel, of course, but we demand security measures that are effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently-applied. In the two years since we stepped up to these issues, TSA has:
- Begun reintroduction of the Trusted Traveler Program
- Expanded use of explosive-sniffing dogs
- Conceded that pilots are not security risks, and minimized their airport security ordeal
- Begun replacing overly-graphic scanner software with sketch-like presentations
- Shifted to purchasing millimeter wave body scanners, addressing the X-ray threat raised to us by our medical professional members
- Begun testing behavior analysis techniques, based on the Israeli model, designed to catch the bombers, not the bombs.
We’ve made our voice heard, and we can look back with pride on our efforts to date.
The Road Ahead
Nonetheless, the war isn’t over. We must forge ahead to address ongoing issues concerning responsibility for diversion delays, objectionable airport security measures, ongoing FAA Reauthorization Bill controversy, and the hazards posed by ever-decreasing airliner leg room.
Diversion Delay Responsibility
The tragic marooning of almost 30 airliners during last year’s “Snowtober” weather disaster clearly demonstrated that long tarmac delays are not the exclusive province of the airlines. Connecticut’s Bradley Field was overwhelmed when over 20 flights diverted there during the snowstorm. How could airline and FAA decision makers dump all that added traffic into a field without adequate equipment to deal with the surge? Why were buses unavailable to move stranded passengers? Why was Customs unavailable?
The answer lies in the absence of the communication, collaboration, and cooperation called for in the DOT’s 2008 Tarmac Task Force Model Contingency Planning Document. Today, only the airlines are required to have tarmac delay contingency plans, but each of the many players in our complex air travel system can contribute-either to the solution or to the problem.
FlyersRights will work with our Congressional supporters and the DOT, asking that they explore ways to address coordinated contingency planning to finally conquer the tarmac delay problem.
The TSA Fight Continues
Our very public protests against TSA excesses have produced results. Still, therewere few fundamental changes last year. Stories ofhumiliated and abused passengers and arbitrary seizures of absurd items drew protests from many in Congress. However, aside from Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s bill demanding law enforcement training for TSA “officers,” Congressional promises to reign in the TSA seem without substance. In the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act,TSA got everything they wanted.
Our challenge this year is to continue raising our voices, demanding security measures that are effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently applied.
FAA Bill-The Beat Goes On
In 2011, we asked you to speak directly to your congressional representatives many times regarding the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act , commonly known as the FAA Reauthorization Bill, and you responded magnificently. In spite of that, the bill is still in limbo. Opinions on the bill’s fate in the coming Congressional session range from pessimistic to more upbeat notes, such as Senator Harry Reid’s call for early action.
Congress must make our tarmac delay language a part of public law. We will work with our public advocacy partners and our friends in Congress to make that happen.
Airliner Leg Room
An under-publicized issue that you raise with us frequently is the intolerabledecrease in economy class leg room. Comfort issues aside, there are very real, very threatening safety issues that we will address this year. The Centers for Disease Control warns us that deep vein thrombosis is a very real threat, saying that a respected study “found that long-distance travel longer than 4 hours increased the risk of VTE 2-fold compared with not traveling.” (VTE, Venous Thromboembolism, is another term for Deep Vein Thrombosis). Cramped seating exacerbates the problem.
On top of that, shorter distances between seat rows (seat pitch) imperil aircraft evacuation efforts. The FAA says in the Code of Federal Regulations that carriers must demonstrate the ability to fully evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds. Obviously, the closer the seat pitch, the more difficult it is to get out of the row-especially if you’re in a window seat.
The Flyers Rights Education Fund will take this issue on. We must educate Congress and the American public on the dangers of inadequate leg room and work to bring positive changes.
Help Us Succeed
As we look back with pride on our successes, and look forward to another year of challenge, we should reflect on the fact that we are an organization financed entirely through the generosity of our members. We must ask you, our loyal membership, to continue your generous support in 2012. Your contributions to FlyersRights.org directly support our lobbying efforts, but are not tax-deductible for you. Contributions to the Flyers Rights Education Fund support our free, 24/7 Hotline and the many education efforts we will undertake this year.
For the first time, you are not alone in providing our financial support. Board member Paul Hudson has reached out to Ralph Nader and his friends, and they have graciously extended their offer to match, dollar for dollar, your contributions to the Flyers Rights Education Fund through the end of this month. Please help us reach their match goal of $15,000.
We have much to accomplish in 2012. Please help us continue your fight bydonating whatever you can toFlyersRights.org or to the FlyersRights Education Fund. Your commitments to ongoing monthly donations, regardless of size, are a great help to us, as they help stabilize our cash flow. Can you spare just $10 each month to either of our organizations? Can you spare even more? We offer continuing donation options in sizes to fit your needs.
If not, please make a one-time contribution. Remember, the gift matching offer expires at the end of January!
Thank you. We’re all in this together, and the fight is far from over. Kate and the incredible FlyersRights Volunteers need whatever help you can give.
What Kate’s Saying
MSNBC News-Dylan Ratigan Show (A great interview-watch this!!)
Atlanta Journal Constitution