The Newsletter couldn’t miss a chance to take advantage of the Brexit-devalued Pound Sterling, so it”ll be touring the UK until mid-August, and experiencing several flights as a refresher of passenger rights abuses, Albeit, nothing like in the US. Until then, we’ll be bringing you some Timeless Greatest Hits from older editions. Stay tuned…
A Job Well Done
But Still Far To Go
orig. published December 8, 2015

Back in December 2006, in what seems like much simpler times, FlyersRights was born.
We’re now approaching the ninth anniversary of the organization, which began with the formation of a definitive piece of government regulation, the 3-Hour Tarmac delay Rule. 
This unglamorous but critical piece of legislation saw millions of passengers clash with Washington insiders and airline executives.
 

FlyersRights was doing groundbreaking work, focusing squarely on the issue of passenger strandings, which wasn’t being taken seriously and not central to political discourse. In the spring of 2010 the US Department of Transportation began imposing severe penalties against airlines that kept passengers stranded onboard aircraft during lengthy tarmac delays.
 

So far last winter, as snowstorms delayed thousands of flights, this rule has helped ease countless of frustrated travelers. Comfort that wasn’t going to be provided voluntarily by the airlines, so the DOT rightfully stepped in.

So the airlines have changed, yet customers have never been more unhappy. The Air Travel Consumer Report from the U.S. Department of Transportation finds that in the first six months of this year, complaints from air travelers were up 20 percent over the same time frame in 2014.
It’s nothing short of amazing that as airline profits and revenues go through the roof, customer service is worse than ever.
 

The usual scenario is if you’re unhappy with a business, you can take your money elsewhere, but that choice is long gone for passengers. Following several rounds of mergers over the last seven years, 85 percent of the nation’s air traffic is reduced to four airlines – American, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.
 

Challenging the Oligarchy
An oligopoly is a case of limited competition, in which a market is controlled by a small number of firms. Thankfully, the Department of Justice launched its own investigation into the US major airlines, long suspected of collusion to fleece passengers out of billions.
 

Much like the case of broadband Internet. Many of us are at the mercy of our local cable company for Internet service. Resulting in broadband that is both slower and more expensive than in other countries.
 

Remarkably, high airline profits aren’t making the average air travelers experience better. Just like the oligopoly dominating your local Internet service – their big profits aren’t an incentive to invest in faster networks – it’s the other way around, they have less incentive to upgrade service than if there was more competition and lower profits.

Here are a few ways the oligopoly airlines make your flight an overpriced nightmare-FlyersRights addresses these our proposed Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0:
Charging unreasonable fees for checked baggage.

American commercial airlines are expected to record a combined net profit of $13.2 billion in 2015 according to IATA off fees on checked luggage. Which is a huge haul by any measure, but particularly noteworthy considering bags used to be free.
 

Most airlines now require $25 for one piece of checked luggage, with costs increasing for each additional bag, and reaching as high as $200. JetBlue, which for years separated itself from the bunch with free baggage check, u-turned and began charging for checked bags this past summer. That leaves Southwest as the lone airline that doesn’t charge for checked bags.
 

Charging unreasonable fees for ticket changes.

The industry standard for ticket change fees for American commercial flights is now averaging $200. (For some international flights, that figure can rise to $300 and more.) This has earned the airlines a collective $3 billion in flight change fees between June of 2014 and 2015.
 

Being late. 

Yes, poor weather and aircraft maintenance can throw off flight times, but some delays are completely unnecessary.
The Air Quality Rating report, released in April of this year, found that industry on-time arrival percentages worsened between 2013 and 2014, dropping from 78.4 percent to 76.2 percent.

Some offenders were far worse than others. Spirit continued its streak of worst at everything; its flights have only a 50-50 chance of arriving within 15 minutes of schedule.
 

United was a distant second, with 33.7 percent of its flights arriving late to their destination.

Booking (and overbooked) flights.
 

Sardined flights have a many obvious downsides, among them “boarding headaches, overhead bin shortages and increases in involuntary bumping.” When airlines overbook flights, customers usually lose. Between 2013 and 2014, there was an increase of 3 percent in customers that were bumped from flights
 

Expensive ticket prices.

Remember a few years ago when airfare prices shot up, and everyone grudgingly went along with it because fuel costs were so high and it all seemed legitimate? Well, gas prices have nose-dived since then, yet ticket prices haven’t budged. In fact, domestic fares actually crept up by about 3 percent last year.
 

Unbundling services and upselling everything.   

What is the definition of ‘airfare’? The airlines have reduced the term to an increasingly meaningless base price with dozens of gotcha fees, which leads to deceptive advertising.
Small seats getting smaller.
Airlines are now aggressively reducing seat and passenger space on both new and existing airliners to squeeze out more revenue, and charging extra for what had previously been standard seat space, to the point that health and safety is threatened.
 

According to USA Today, “[f]light attendants say it’s harder to provide passengers with medical care in tightly packed seat rows, and doctors warn of ‘economy class syndrome,’ or deep vein thrombosis, which can afflict passengers who can’t move their legs on longer flights.”
 

Flyersrights is requesting that Congress establish a minimum standard for seat pitch. Our petition has been signed by nearly 35,000.

Air travelers need an advocate now more than ever. Are we up to the challenge?

The answer is yes – FlyersRights has never shied away from big ambitions.


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