FLYERS RIGHTS Renews Call for Airport Tarmac Delay Contingency Plans

Kate Asks, Spirit Responds

What Kate’s Saying

Airlines Ignoring DOT Rules

The Huffington Post’s Blake Fleetwood reported last week that the Department ofDOT LogoTransportation (DOT) is investigating airlines for ignoring the provisions of the DOT’s August 23rd rulemaking that require airlines to “disclose all fees for optional services to consumers through a prominent link on their homepage.” The idea of the rule was to help us make apples-to-apples comparisons of actual fare prices between airlines competing for our travel dollars.

Is the DOT overreacting to the problem? You be the judge. To test the charge, we went through the reservation drill on American Airlines’ web site, taking us to the final page. That was AA’s last opportunity to prominently display the other fees we’d encounter. Did they do that? See if you can find it:

AA Fare Page

We couldn’t see any display of the fees either. Now look at the blue mouse-print at the very bottom, a link to “optional charges.” That’s it. Hardly what any reasonable person would define as “prominent.” Blake is right-the airlines are ignoring the DOT.

The DOT has already fined Orbitz$60,000 for similar transgressions.Orbitz accepted the DOT’s judgment and fixed the problems that led to the fine.

This comes on the heels of a recent spike in extended tarmac delays. The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported 14 tarmac delays of over three hours in June. Clearly, our efforts to put in place airline passenger protections are in danger. FlyersRights will soon be asking you to once again lift your voices to fight this erosion of protections for which we’ve fought so hard and so long.

Kate Asks, Spirit Responds

Kate got a Hotline call last Friday from Flyersrights member Melissa, asking for assistance with a problem regarding a Spirit Airlines trip. Melissa and her two children were trying to get to San Jose, Costa Rica, on October 16th, and the trip had become a nightmare.

The problems began when Spirit “downsized” their flight from Ft. Lauderdale toSpirit Airlines logoSan Jose, replacing the scheduled Airbus 320 with a smaller aircraft-the Airbus 319.The result was denial of boarding to 25 passengers.Since Melissa and her family were among the last to book, they were bumped.Spirit offered accommodation on the next available flight, two days later, or a complete refund.

As usual, the refund option was unacceptable, as rebooking on another carrier at that late date would be exponentially more expensive. Melissa elected to take the next flight. Spirit covered their hotel and some meal expenses for the two-day layover.

Costa Rica CrestWhen the family checked in for the new flight, however, they learned that the disaster was not over. Costa Rica’s Entry and Exit Requirements demand that travelers provide proof of onward travel at their port of entry. An airline or bus ticket would satisfy that requirement. Unfortunately, Melissa could not provide that proof, so Spirit could not board the family for the flight. Had they done so, they would have been fined by the Costa Rican government and Melissa and her children would have been denied entry into the country.

For the rest of the week, Melissa shuttled between hotel and airport, trying to arrange a Spirit flight to San Jose. With expenses and frustration mounting, she called Kate last Friday to ask for help. Good idea, Melissa!

Kate put Melissa in touch with Spirit’s Senior Manager of Customer Relations, Heather Harvey for resolution of the issue. She also talked to Heather personally, made clear our interest in Melissa’s difficulties, and urged Spirit to take care of three passengers whose lives were badly disrupted.

We are pleased to report that Spirit did the right thing. They are covering the hotel and meal expenses for Melissa and her family until they can get them to San Jose, and have refunded all baggage fees and the assigned seating fees they charged the family. While the initial trip disruption was undeniably caused by their equipment change decision, other delays were not their direct responsibility. Nevertheless, through Kate’s efforts, they stepped up to taking care of these three customers. We applaud their decision.

What lessons can we take from this? First, at least on Spirit Airlines, book your flight as early as possible to lessen your chances of being bumped if they elect to provide fewer seats than they’ve sold. Second, international travel can be tricky, because rules and requirements differ so widely from country to country. Do your homework, so that you’re not surprised at the check-in counter or, worse, at the country’s port of entry.

Finally, be an advocate for yourself. Understand the options and rights available to you when traveling by air, and when you need help, call the FlyersRights Hotline at 866-359-6776!! Join the thousands of passengers we’ve helped over the last 4 ½ years.

What Kate’s Saying

Kate had a number of radio interviews last week, in addition to a Fox interview that will air soon.

NBC Los Angeles-Comments on John Wayne Airport’s New Body Scanners

Huffington Post-Column on Our Ongoing e-Cigarette Survey

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