FlyersRights.org
Congressman Wants TSA Screeners to Say ‘Please’
Threatening to Make it Law
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) wants the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be more polite. A lot more polite.
At a hearing last week, Connolly pointed out that the TSA and members of Congress are both in the customer-service business. 
“There’s no excuse for someone barking orders continuously at the public at any airport in America who is an employee of the federal government, or a contractor for the federal government,” Connolly said. “I’d lose my job if I treated the public that way and rightfully so.”
According to the New York Daily News, Connolly added, “I counted – in one encounter – 20 barked orders. Take that off … Move over there … Back up … Put your hands up … Take your shoes off.’ Not once was the word ‘please’ used.”

“I don’t understand how hard it is to teach people: make sure you use the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you’re interacting with our public,” Connolly said.  
David Cox, national president of screeners union AFGE, said his members ‘face tremendous pressure to keep the lines moving as fast as possible and simultaneously provide the kind of scrutiny that terrorism prevention requires,’ and that they are ‘overwhelmingly respectful.’  
Connolly wondered aloud whether the public tolerates screeners’ brusque behavior as a trade-off for security, or because “lack of respect has just become part of the culture of air travel.”
 
It’s not a police state if they say please! 
Boeing Confirms New 787 Battery Incident
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner suffered another battery scare as a component started smoking on a plane in Japan.
A Japan Airlines’ (JAL) Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Narita airport in Tokyo on Jan. 15, 2014. (Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO AFP/Getty Images)
Last Tuesday, maintenance workers at Japan’s Narita airport noticed smoke and an unidentified liquid coming from the main battery of a 787.  No passengers were on board.
Boeing said it appears that a single battery cell ‘vented’, or released gas. The company has recently endured a series of safety incidents that led airlines all over the world to temporarily ground their Dreamliner fleets in 2013. 
The incident comes a year after a fire in a lithium ion battery aboard a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport. That was followed nine days later by another battery incident that forced an emergency landing in Japan by an All Nippon Airways 787.
  
Those problems prompted the FAA and other authorities to ground all 787s for more than three months. The planes began flying again after Boeing changed the battery system, adding a tougher box to hold the battery and measures to contain any short-circuit or fire.
Boeing said those changes appear to have worked as designed in the battery incident on Tuesday.
If the Japan Transport Safety Board opens an investigation, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board ‘would certainly participate,’ NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
The NTSB said the incident was reported to it as a ‘smoke event’.
The NTSB expects to finish its investigation of the 787 fire in Boston by the end of March and present findings at a public meeting this fall.
‘Anything we can learn about the (latest) battery failure would be helpful (to the ongoing investigation),’ Knudson said.
The FAA said it is working with Boeing and with the Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan to investigate the latest malfunction.
United Airlines is the only U.S. 787 operator.
PREVIOUSLY REPORTED PROBLEMS INVOLVING THE BOEING 787:
July 28 2012: A fan shaft fails during runway tests in South Carolina
December 2012: A Dreamliner was forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans
January 7 2013: An unoccupied Dreamliner flight bursts into flames at Boston airport
January 15 2013: A flight made an emergency landing in Japan after a smoke alarm went off. The string of incidents led to regulators ordering a global grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet, which lasted for four months
June 2 2013: Battery-related problems were reported on a Japan Airlines aircraft forcing the airline to use an alternate plane
June 12 2013: A flight in Japan was cancelled after one of the engines failed to start
June 18 2013: A United Airlines flight was diverted to Seattle due to an oil-filter problem
June 24 2013: A Dreamliner operated by United Airlines had to make an emergency landing in Denver due to a brake problem
July 3 2013: Polish airline LOT cancelled a Dreamliner flight to Chicago because the aircraft had ‘problems with the power supply’
July 12 2013: Ethiopian Airlines plane catches fire on the runway at Heathrow, forcing the closure of the whole airport
July 18 2013: Japan Airlines plane bound for Tokyo had to return to Boston’s Logan airport after take-off because of a possible issue with the fuel pumps
August, 2013 Battery wire damage disables locator transmitter

October 16, 2013 fuselage panel (4′ x 8′ ) falls off in midair reports Air India

October, 2013 Japan Airlines flight diverted due to 6 toilets unusable

November 2013: Japan Airlines pulls 787s from two international routes amid concerns about ice forming on the planes
November, 2013 Windshield cracks 2x in India and Australia, Air India

reports 136 technical problems 9/12 – 11/13 with 787
November 10, 2013 JAL reports emergency landing due to battery warning
November, 2013 FAA issues directive warning 787 engines  can ice up and lose power near cumulonimbus clouds, airlines to stay away from such clouds with 787 GE engines
December, 2013 Norwegian ASA reports 275 passenger delay claims due to 787 estimated at 600,000 Euros
December 6, 2013 LOT airlines 787 grounded in Chicago with damaged spoiler
December, 2013 LOT Airlines settles 787 claims with Boeing for $32 million
January 11, 2014 Air India 787 grounded in Hong Kong after actuator for wing spoiler broke
The FAA has advised FlyersRights’ president Paul Hudson that its “technical department” is still considering the FlyersRights’ May 2013 petition to reduce the maximum range of the 787 from 3 hours to 2 hours to the nearest landing zone.  And the National Transportation Safety Board has announced that it will not issue a report on the January 2013 battery fires until at least March 2014.

 

Survey: Many Passengers Dislike ‘Slim-Line’ Seating
 
For years FlyersRights has been railing against cramped seating and shrunken aisles. If we didn’t complain, the airlines would have us standing and holding on to poles
 
So 

SCOTT LOWDEN/DELTA 
The slimline seats are for coach customers. First-class seats won’t be affected.

thinner seats are the new trend because they squeeze more passengers into a plane.

 
But these seats may not be so popular with passengers.
new survey by the travel website TripAdvisor shows that many passengers who have tried slim-line seats are not fans. 
In a recent survey involving 1,391 travelers who had tried the new seats, a whopping 83% said they were less comfortable than traditional seats, with 8% saying they were more comfortable and 9% saying that they couldn’t tell any difference.
Among the critics of cramped cabins is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who fired off a tweet last week about his flight to Washington from Phoenix.
“Are you as frustrated as I am that the airlines keep moving the rows of seats closer and closer together?” he said.
Charging More Money for Less Space
Airlines now charge for everything from carry-on luggage and food to additional leg room.  They have even contemplated charging for the air they provide and even the use of the onboard bathrooms!  Of course people like getting the lowest fares possible, but this should not be at the expense of basic amenities.  

It appears that airlines are making economy class seating intentionally less comfortable to create incentives for passengers to upgrade. 
We’d all love to fly business or first class every time, but it’s insanely expensive for most of us. However, it doesn’t mean that airlines have to treat passengers like cattle with no room to exhale.

All we are asking for is adequate standards for flying. The FAA and DOT are failing the public. 
 
Government agencies require complex rules for on-board devices and safety instructions, but when passenger accommodations gets squeezed, the FAA is absent.  
Frequent Flyer with Metal Implants Takes TSA Pat-Down Policy to Court 

  
Does TSA’s enhanced pat-downs of handicapped passengers violate the Fourth Amendment and federal law?
On January 7th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit heard Ruskai v. Pistole. Mary Beth Ruskai accused TSA of running afoul of the Rehabilitation Act, which bars federal programs from discriminating against people with disabilities.
Ruskai, a 69-year-old frequent traveler with metal knee and hip implants, was appealing a February 2012 decision that dismissed her complaint against TSA.
Basic Fourth Amendment law holds that “you balance the need for intrusion against the intrusiveness of the search, and the search is highly intrusive,” said Inga Bernstein, a partner at Boston-based Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein who represents Ruskai.
Ruskai says she’s been subjected to “enormously invasive” pat-downs and TSA is diverting resources to passengers who pose a low security risk.
Ruskai’s enrollment in TSA’s Pre-Check program did not help, and she says that at foreign airports her airport screening is far less invasive.

 

“It usually takes the court of appeals at least 2-3 months to issue an opinion, said Naomi Shatz of Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein who is also representing Ruskai. “So we’re just waiting to see how they rule on the case.  I hope we’ll know in March 2014.”

Your Letters: 
Flight Cancellations Caused by Snowstorms

 
Question 1 of 2: 
I’m stuck right now in Atlanta, (Jan. 4), where it definitely did not snow. When my 6 am United flight to Tucson, where it most definitely does not snow, was abruptly cancelled.
 
The snowstorm in the Northeast caused about 1,500 flight cancellations yesterday, a fairly routine number for a snowstorm. 
 
But some airlines, United in my case, seem to be cancelling flights that do not seem to be affected by the actual storm. My 6 am flight, for example, was to have originated in Houston for Atlanta.
Is there a consumer/passenger rights issue with the way airlines are canceling flights, using weather as an excuse? Shouldn’t they be required to REFUND your money for a cancelled flight, rather than 1. Arbitrarily putting you on a flight a day or two later than may be utterly unacceptable to you? or 2. Magnanimously telling you that you have a year to rebook the flight without paying a penalty, even though the fare will likely be higher?
J.S.
…and this one:
Question 2 of 2: 
I thought you would like to see this message Delta sent me.  I traveled over New Year’s and got stranded for a couple days. I was actually luckier than most people.  In Detroit, there were people camped out on the floor like homeless people.  A couple people told me they were stranded there for 5 days, and had 6 flights in a row cancelled.
What people don’t understand is why they try to say the flights were cancelled for “weather” when the weather is perfect in both the departure and arrival city.  Also, saying a flight has “mechanical problems” is often an outright lie.  Especially when they cancel it 30 minutes before departure.  People aren’t stupid and they also notice that the flights getting repeatedly cancelled are in smaller airports.
Standing people in airports for days – there has to be a better way for the airlines to do business.  I hope you mention these items in your next newsletter.
T.O.
Lincoln, Nebraska
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Delta Air Lines
Sent: Saturday, January 11, 2014 8:39 PM
Subject: Please Accept Our Apology

On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I would like to extend my personal apology for the inconvenience you experienced as a result of the cancellation of Flight DL4560 on January 07, 2014.

In light of the current state of the economy, and in today’s competitive airline industry, travelers expect the best value for their travel dollar. Delta strives to provide this value through a mix of safety, on-time performance, courteous and professional service, and a wide range of destination options. We want to make travel on us a convenient and trouble-free experience for our passengers and I am truly sorry we failed to do so on this occasion.

To demonstrate our commitment to service excellence and as a gesture of apology for our service failure, I am adding 5,000 bonus miles to your SkyMiles account. Please allow three business days for the miles to appear. If you would like to verify your mileage balance and gain access to all of our mileage redemption programs, you may visit us at www.delta.com/skymiles.

It is our goal to provide exceptional service on every occasion, and I hope you will provide us with an opportunity to restore your confidence. Your support is important to Delta, our Connection carriers and our SkyTeam partners. We look forward to your continued patronage and the privilege of serving your air travel needs again soon.

Sincerely,

Jason Hausner
Director, Customer Care   

  
Answer:
You can definitely get a refund if your flight is canceled and you did not fly.  You can take another form of transportation or request passage on another airline, although the right to use another airline to the same destination is not a right (one that our proposed Airline Bill of Rights 2.0 that has now been presented to the DOT, FAA and Congress and is supported by many other consumer advocates and is on our web site, would fix.
If you are stranded overnight away from your home city, you should be able to get hotel and meal vouchers.
Some airlines are not satisfied with high change fees, but are magically seeking to generate more fees by unilaterally changing schedules or canceling flights. 
 
This is, in my opinion, an unfair and deceptive practice that should be investigated and fined by the DOT.  Even if such fees are waived, it is clearly an inconvenience to passengers and should result in bumping-type compensation, an upgrade, or at least a more convenient flight in the future or perhaps even a ticket to a more distant destination.
All airlines and airports are required to have filed and approved contingency plans with the DOT for large storm events. Such plans should include extra crews and equipment to minimize system-wide delays and cancellations.
But it appears many airlines do not and prefer to dump cost onto passengers and have the entire country suffer an air transportation near slowdown rather than have reserves or do proper contingency planning. Our Bill of Rights would fix this, but even now the DOT could correct the problem by making approval of the plans contingent on having adequate crews and equipment arrangements with other airlines.
Also the DOT needs to crack down on the practice of falsely reporting weather as the reason for a delay or cancellation when it is really due to lack of crews or equipment or poor contingency planning which is in an airline’s control.
The current situation is analogous to an electric utility failing to bring in extra crews to restore service after a big storm and telling its customers to freeze and wait, but still be sure to pay their bill on time. Or a city not hiring extra plow trucks. When mayors or utilities do this, there are big consequences, airlines need to feel the same heat.
Regards,
Paul Hudson, President
Your Letters on Allowing Foreign Airlines to Fly US Domestic Routes…
Dear FlyersRights: 
You are so right. If you want to see dysfunctional concentration visit Canada and fly on Air Canada.
I have lived in Asia for 13 years and even the worst of the lot (Air China and China Eastern) are light years ahead of all American airlines. Service, food, seating, comfort rank less than 5/10 compared to the average Asian airlines.
If I had to live in the US I would go out of my way to take a train, car or bus. Now I haven’t even mentioned the draconian netherworld of US airport insecurity and the dreaded TSA……!
good luck America!
C.B.

Dear FlyersRights: 
Clearly you lack understanding of the challenges of cabotage. Although you acknowledge that employee groups have strong (and rational) objections to the idea, your subsequent dismissal of such concerns makes absolutely no attempt to establish the basis for your opinion.
You can be sure that LH, BA, AF, or any of Gulf States carriers will use their subsidies to displace U.S. workers and U.S. airlines if domestic flying is opened to them.
The idea that air fares are too high for today’s travelers can only be proffered by an individual who is totally ignorant of the economics of airline operation. Take a few minutes to look at the operating margin of even the most successful U.S. airline and then compare that to the average of other equal-sized U.S. entities. I’m sure you will learn a great deal about the rationale for the price of commercial airline trips.
Best regards,

D.G.
Dear FlyersRights:
Do you realize how few domestic cruise lines exist? To get around the
restrictive labor laws, cruise liners just sail under different flags.
The problem with allowing foreign airlines to fly is that domestic
airlines and jobs will disappear.
What we need instead of foreign airlines is to lessen some of the
restrictions that prevent small startups from getting started. The
busses in Chinatown competing with Greyhound is a good example of how
this could be more feasible.
S.B.
Dear FlyersRights:
This is precisely what my husband and I want to happen.  To bring back competition in the U.S. the government must allow foreign carriers to operate flights solely within our borders.  If Flyers Rights plans to begin working seriously toward this goal, let me know and I’ll make a contribution.  Our first choices would be Thai Air and Cathay Pacific. 
Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of airline passengers.
M.A.
 
Dear FlyersRights:
Brilliant idea.  I, too, prefer foreign airlines and despise “American” carriers.  Flying from Asia to the US it was a noticeable and unpleasant change from service to the pretense of service, which is so “American”.  Where’s the petition?  Where do I sign?  We allow everything else foreign in this country, why not airlines?
M.M.
Dear FlyersRights:
Let’s start a petition aimed at the FAA and whitehouse.
(Do you know www.change.org?) 
J.V.
Dear FlyersRights:
I bought a ticket on US Airways last March for a friend to fly from Chicago to Dallas in November.  About a month before the trip, he got a notice that the flight times had changed by about an hour each way, asking for his confirmation.  He sent it to me, but neither of us replied.  Ten days before the trip he had to cancel.  I called the airline and found that since we had not agreed to the changes, I was able to get a full refund
D.P.

Pitch In and Help FlyersRights!
 
Volunteers are needed in all areas, and intern positions with stipends are available for students and recent graduates.  
Email Paul Hudson, (globetrotter1947[at]hotmail[dot]com.
 
Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights

 
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