This Mad Magazine cartoon from a few years ago was as relevant then as it is now.

In fact, as we pointed out last week, airlines seem ever intent on increasing existing fees and exploring new ways to make money off things that were once included in the ticket price.

Take for instance airline seating.

Many carriers already offer reserved seating with extra legroom at additional cost. But how about reserving a regular old seat?

Odds are, you’ll pay for that as well. A seat that happens to be closer to the front of the aircraft? There’s a good chance that will cost more, too.

Charge of the flight brigade

U.S. carriers collected an estimated $57 billion in revenue from fees in 2017, up almost 300 percent from five years earlier.

Apparently, things are just taking off in à la carte land. Rather than improving upon the existing experience, industry executives seem smitten with other ways to reach into your wallet.

United recently raised check bag fees to match JetBlue, and it’s probably only a matter of time before other carriers follow suit.

According to a recent article by Forbes magazine, passengers may soon be treated to a murky algorithm when buying a ticket online.

NDC, aka New Distribution Capability, sounds harmless enough. The truth is NDC relies on data mining to offer travelers fare “options” during ticket purchase.

Aviation journalist Dan Reed points out that fares offered to passengers may soon automatically build into a package their known preferences on checked bags, seating, in-flight meals, ground transportation, hotel rooms and even retail purchases appropriate for the destination. For business travelers, any discounts negotiated by their employers could be applied automatically as well.

Customizing the ticket purchase process and selling each traveler a unique set of services at a unique price could leave passengers without the foggiest notion of what fare they actually paid. Comparison shopping will be extremely difficult.

Feeling the heat

Lawmakers are taking notice of rising fees and have written to 11 carriers to express concern.

In a letter, Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., along with Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., highlight the recent increases in checked-bag and cancellation fees.

The letter implies that the fee increases seem to have little to do with the cost of the services provided but instead offset a recent rise in jet fuel costs.

Most pointedtly, the senators claim these fee increases are arbitrary as airlines entice passengers with fares that do not reflect the actual price of travel.

Markey, Blumenthal and Cohen go on to ask the airlines to provide their actual cost to get a piece of a luggage on an airplane at small, medium and large airports and to document rising costs from passenger cancellations. Finally, the lawmakers ask if airlines plan on raising fees further in the next three months.

Stay tuned for the carriers’ response. We’ll keep an eye out for the big reveal and remind you to vote on fees with your wallet.

Is there a plumber on board?

Flushing a diaper down a toilet rapidly caused a situation aboard an American flight from Phoenix to Kona in Hawaii.

With two hours left before landing, the only operational toilet at the front of the Boeing 757 was already overflowing and one passenger was told to use a plastic bag.

American noted that because the flight was over the ocean, it could not follow company policy and divert to the nearest airport.

All passengers were subsequently provided with 30,000 American AAdvantage miles, enough for a free roundtrip. Good luck cashing in any frequent flyer miles, we say.

Hero of the week

In a bit of good news, a captain at American Airlines recently provided stranded passengers with food.

When American 2354 from LAX to DFW was rerouted to Wichita Falls because of thunderstorms, it left 159 passengers stranded until the next day.

Capt. Jeff Raines ordered 40 pizzas and delivered them to the passengers himself.

Bravo to Capt. Raines for going above and beyond the call of duty.


PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
 

Contact for more information Paul Hudson 800-662-1859 paul@flyersights.org or Andrew Appelbaum andrew@flyersrights.org

9/11 Plus 17 years: Airline Passenger Group Warns Trump Administration re Its Aviation Security Policies

WASHINGTON D.C., September 11, 2018 – Flyersrights.org, the largest US airline passenger organization, has warned the Trump Administration that more 9/11 type terrorist attacks may occur unless it changes a series of ineffective or dangerous aviation security policies it is pursuing.
Paul Hudson, President and former longtime member of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, noted, “The US ignored effective aviation security after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 that killed 270 which led to the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in 2001, the destruction of the World Trade Center, severe damage to the Pentagon, at a cost of over $3 trillion to America. Nineteen of nineteen terrorist hijackers got through private airline security on four separate flights on 9/11/2001.”
He continued, “We are alarmed that the Trump Administration is hiding and failing to correct past inadequacies and compounding them by pursuing newly misguided policies including.”
– Ignoring and hiding a rulemaking petition filed by FlyersRights.org in 2017 to fix the ammunition loophole that allows and even encourages carrying of guns and ammunition with no added security in checked baggage.
In January 2017, a mentally deranged combat veteran, inspired by ISIS, killed 5 and injured 5 with an automatic pistol and ammunition taken from his checked baggage at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Instead of banning ammo and guns carried together in checked baggage, or requiring additional security, the TSA reaffirmed its policy allowing guns and ammo in checked baggage.

– The TSA also refused to publicly file the petition for public comment as required by law, while advertising to the public ways to legally carry more guns and ammunition on airliners, thereby enabling more mass airport shootings.

– FY 2018 budget proposal eliminating budgets for airport security patrols and turning over all airport security other than passenger and baggage screening to local law enforcement (some Florida legislators have responded by calling for airports to become easy conceal carry zones);

– Refusing any airport perimeter security so that the US is vulnerable to Brussels, Istanbul airport, and Manchester style terrorism (such attacks killed about 320 and paralyzed travel for days);

– Highly invasive pat downs, especially on children, disabled, elderly, transgender and sexual assault victims, thereby undermining public confidence and instilling fear and loathing by many passengers for the TSA, and used by no other country. For background, see https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tsa-reaches-out-mother-boy-viral-pat-down-video-n740796. 

– Continued refusal of high level TSA and DHS officials to meet with passenger groups and the exclusion of US based airline passenger organizations from its Aviation Security Advisory Committee.

– Ignoring Congressional subpoenas and requests on dubious grounds apparently to cover up mismanagement.

– No effective registration, security or defense against armed drones, now being used by terrorist organizations in the Middle East, from attacking U.S. targets.

– TSA Ignoring requests for retrieval of confiscated property return, fair and transparent methods for damage or theft claims of passenger property or challenges to inclusion on watch or no fly lists.

The U.S., despite many TSA problems, has been fortunate to have avoided massive new aviation terrorism attacks since 9/11/2001. But unless effective security policies are updated and bad ones discontinued, we fear that such relative good fortune will not continue despite good faith efforts by most TSA employees.”
Previously, Flyersrights.org successfully supported in court cases the continued banning of knives in airliner cabins and the application of the Whistle Blower Protection statute to the Dept. of Homeland Security.

The FlyersRights.org ammunition rulemaking petition can be viewed at https://aviation.travel/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Ammunition-Rulemaking-Petition-Combined2.pdf.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 12, 2018

National Consumers League; John Breyault: (202) 207-2819
Alliance for Aviation Across America; Devin Osting: (202) 223-9523
Consumer Action; Linda Sherry: 202-544-3088
FlyersRights.Org; Paul Hudson: 410-940-8934

In The Public Interest; Donald Cohen: 202-429-5091

Privatized Foreign Systems Continue to Fall Further Behind the U.S.

European air traffic control providers are plagued by massive delays and cancellations

⦁ According to a recent AP article, “the leading trade group for global airlines is criticizing air traffic control agencies in Europe for seeking ‘super-normal profits’ instead of investing to improve performance at a time when air travelers are facing longer waits.” (⦁ Washington Times, July 18, 2018)

⦁ Specifically, according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), privatized and non-privatized air navigation service providers (ANSPs) across Europe are experiencing increased delays. In fact, “in the first half of 2018, air traffic management delays more than doubled to 47,000 minutes per day, 133% more than in the same period last year.” (⦁ IATA Press Release No. 42, July 18, 2018)

⦁ Yet at the same time, “the largest service providers have either under-invested in staff or use outdated employment practices which don’t deploy staff when and where they’re most needed, resulting in unnecessary delays for passengers. Many European ANSPs have also failed to make planned technology investments intended to increase capacity.” (⦁ IATA Press Release No. 42, July 18, 2018)

⦁ For example, across Europe, Ryanair was forced to cancel 1,100 flights in June 2018, “due to air traffic control strikes and staff shortages in the U.K., Germany and France.” Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “Regrettably, over 210,000 Ryanair customers had their flights cancelled in June because of four weekends of ATC (air traffic control) strikes and repeated U.K., German and French ATC staff shortages.” (⦁ The Independent, July 3, 2018)

Canada’s privatized ATC system has been plagued with delays, staffing shortages; radar technology costs continue

⦁ Air Canada, the flag carrier and largest airline in Canada, recently was ranked last in on-time performance out of 72 global airlines that are tracked by AirHelp, a consumer advocacy group. (AirHelp, 2018)

⦁ In July 2018, more than 22 percent of flights at Canada’s nine busiest airports were delayed, with an average delay of more than 52 minutes, according to FlightStats. (FlightStats, July 2018)

⦁ Total air travel complaints in Canada skyrocketed in recent years. According to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), over the past five years, total complaints have increased almost tenfold, reaching more than 5,000 complaints in 2017-2018. (⦁ CBC News, July 26, 2018)

⦁ Canada is in the midst of a staffing crisis as well. According to a study by the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA), Canada will need 2,000 new air traffic controllers between 2017 and 2025. (⦁ CCAA Labour Market Information Report, March 2018)

⦁ A Nav Canada senior official has admitted that staffing shortages are having an impact and that the problem is most acutely felt at the largest airports, where staff is stretched. “There are always [staffing] challenges throughout Canada, especially when we get into the four majors-Montreal, Pearson, Calgary International and Vancouver International…So if we have a number of retirements, or we have someone go off sick, we can get into situations where we’ll have a reduced number of controllers.” (⦁ Skies Magazine, June 29, 2018)

⦁ These staffing issues also extend to airline baggage handlers. At Trudeau International Airport, Air Canada passengers report that suitcases are routinely lost. One passenger said that Air Canada had lost her luggage twice in the past month, while another passenger said, “You feel helpless, because they have your belongings, and I feel like a coat check at any restaurant does a better job of security than what Air Canada has done with these bags.” Air Canada even acknowledges the staffing issue, “An Air Canada employee at the airport told CBC there’s just not enough staff to deal with the backlog.” (⦁ CBC News, Aug. 20, 2018) But to passenger rights activist Gábor Lukács, staff shortages are no excuse for lost luggage, and according to Lukács, airlines have “a legal obligation to transport the bag with the passenger-to make sure the bag is available when the passenger arrives.” (⦁ CBC News, Aug. 26, 2018)

⦁ Additionally, Air Canada has said that 20,000 mobile app users may have been affected by a data breach between August 22 and August 24. Information that may have been accessed includes name and contact information, personal information like passport and NEXUS card numbers (which is for expedited processing when entering the U.S. or Canada), gender, birth date, nationality, and financial information like credit card numbers. (⦁ Global News, Aug. 29, 2018)

⦁ Moreover, Nav Canada continues to depend on and invest in ground-based radar. In 2017, Nav Canada announced that the replacement process will take 10 years, and that “over the course of the next 10 years a massive radar replacement project will take place across the country. It’s the largest capital project NAV CANADA has ever undertaken at a cost of $159 million.” (⦁ Nav Canada Blog, Oct. 20, 2017)

⦁ Earlier this year, Sunwing Airlines had at least five flights that were delayed for roughly 24 hours out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport, during which passengers were unable to access their baggage, cutting them off from clothing or medication. (⦁ CityNews, April 16, 2018) After receiving 89 complaints involving 23 flights, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) launched an investigation of Sunwing Airlines. (⦁ CBC News, April 26, 2018)

UK NATS, the UK’s privatized ATC provider, plagued by flight delays and outdated technology

⦁ The UK’s privatized air traffic control provider, NATS, faces constant delays. According to data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), flights at the top airports in the U.K. left an average of 15 minutes late in 2017. The Airport Operators Association said that “outdated” airspace infrastructure limits the efficiency of flights. (⦁ BBC, May 21, 2018)

⦁ In the NATS 2018 annual report, CEO Martin Rolfe stated that “our airspace structures have not changed significantly over the past 50 years and will not accommodate the forecast growth in traffic and airport infrastructure, including a new runway at Heathrow, without causing unacceptable air traffic delays to the travelling public.” (⦁ NATS, 2018)

⦁ According to Which? Travel, a consumer advocacy website, airlines are “padding” their schedules to say they’ve improved their on-time performance. As a result, scheduled flight times across Europe are up to 35 minutes slower this summer than they were 10 years ago. Despite padding their schedules, British Airways, Easyjet, and Ryanair were still less punctual last year than in 2009. (⦁ Which? Travel, Aug. 27, 2018) Rory Boland, from Which? Travel, told The Mirror, “longer scheduled flight times are likely to mean passengers spend more time sitting around at the gate or on the plane itself, just so the airline can pat itself on the back for being ‘on time’ at your destination. Conveniently, it could also reduce the number of instances when an airline has to pay you compensation for a flight delay.” (⦁ The Mirror, Aug. 27, 2018)

⦁ Heathrow Airport just last month experienced an airline IT glitch and a temporary closure of Heathrow’s air traffic control tower. (⦁ Sky News, July 19, 2018) While the air traffic control tower was closed, take-offs and landings were stopped, and between the two incidents, hundreds of flights were delayed and some departures were cancelled. This ultimately affected 10,000 passengers, including around 3,000 British Airways passengers stranded overnight abroad. (⦁ The Independent, July 19, 2018)

⦁ These issues have persisted throughout the UK’s system. According to The Independent, citing a CAA report, “high levels of sickness, unplanned retirements, and staff reluctant to work overtime all contributed to the disarray” of the air traffic control system in the UK. (⦁ The Independent, Aug. 4, 2017)

⦁ In addition, NATS has stated that a “massive” program of modernization is needed to keep up with demand for air travel. According to a NATS official, “We are going to have to redesign our airspace and we are going to need government support to make sure we can do that in the right way.” (⦁ BBC, June 30, 2017)

⦁ Staffing issues also continue to plague Gatwick Airport, the second busiest airport in Britain, where air traffic control is managed by ANS, a British subsidiary of the German company DFS Group. (⦁ Daily Mail, April 8, 2018)

⦁ UK passengers are becoming more and more unhappy when it comes to flying. The CAA’s August 2018 UK Aviation Consumer Survey found that only 39 percent of respondents agree that “the experience of travelling by air is getting better.” (⦁ UK Aviation Consumer Survey, Aug. 2018, p. 7) Additionally, overall satisfaction with respondents’ last flights has declined from 90 percent in March 2016 to 83 percent as of April 2018. (⦁ UK Aviation Consumer Survey, Aug. 2018, p. 31) While in the same time-frame, the passenger experience with airports has also gotten worse; respondents’ satisfaction with each part of the “airport experience” has declined over the last two years. (⦁ UK Aviation Consumer Survey, Aug. 2018, p. 40)

⦁ After a late-night landing due to delayed flights, Ryanair passengers were forced to wait hours at Stansted Airport to retrieve their baggage. Ryanair attributed the flight disruptions to air traffic control delays and bad weather and said the baggage delays occurred because, “Some flights are arriving much later than planned-especially at night-which has stretched available resources beyond normal shift timings.” In some cases, passengers were forced to wait up to five hours. (⦁ BBC News, Aug. 12, 2018)

⦁ This isn’t an isolated incident, either. About two weeks later, baggage delays at Manchester Airport caused “chaos,” according to one passenger quoted by BBC News. The cause for the delay was a fire alarm, which forced an evacuation of the terminal and overextended the overnight Swissport staff of baggage handlers. Passengers vented their frustration, saying the airport told them nothing, with one passenger saying he’d been calling the airport and Swissport, the baggage handler, since 9 a.m. and no one was answering the phone. (⦁ BBC News, Aug. 25, 2018)

⦁ Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest airport, experienced what The Independent described as “chaos” after departure screens went out due to an IT issue on “one of the busiest days of the summer.” Airport staff was forced to use “temporary flight boards,” which were literally whiteboards with information written on them, while staff made announcements about gates. This led to many flights departing late, with some flights leaving over an hour late. (⦁ The Independent, Aug. 20, 2018)

Source of U.S. airline delays and travel woes has nothing to do with ATC

⦁ According to data by the U.S. Department of Transportation, it’s factors within the airlines’ control, including mechanical, staffing, volume and scheduling issues, more than weather and ATC, that were responsible for the majority of delays in 2017. (⦁ Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics) These delays are getting worse, with over 19 percent of flights delayed in 2017, which is 3.5 percent higher than the prior year. (⦁ Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

⦁ Not only do the airlines make little effort to manage day-of flight operations, but very frequently they are responsible for IT glitches that cause system-wide delays. A recent news report from the Washington Post highlighted that technology-related meltdowns and outages among domestic airlines has “risen unevenly during the past decade.” (⦁ Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2018)

⦁ One airline executive at Frontier recently said, “We don’t necessarily believe that it’s cost-effective to end up in the top quartile for on-time performance.” (⦁ The American Prospect, Nov. 3, 2017)

⦁ At an off-the-record crew forum, American Airlines President Robert Isom acknowledged that they’ve had “a really rough summer,” dropping to 15th in on-time performance for North America. Isom identified a few reasons for American’s drop in on-time performance, including an older fleet of aircraft and even the degrading performance of newer aircraft. (⦁ View From The Wing, Aug. 14, 2018)

⦁ In fact, the airlines and the companies they rely on to administer their technological systems were responsible for 12 massive glitches causing system-wide delays in 2017. (⦁ Quartz)

⦁ In June, PSA Airlines, a regional carrier of American Airlines, was forced to cancel about 3,000 flights after a computer problem occurred within PSA Airlines’ crew scheduling program. Of the canceled flights, 2,500 were through the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. (⦁ Charlotte Observer, June 28, 2018)

⦁ A little more than a month later, all American Airlines flights were grounded for about 40 minutes by another glitch. On the same day, but unrelated to the American Airlines glitch, Delta, United and Alaska Airlines had more than a thousand flights delayed by a system outage at SkyWest. According to the Daily Mail, “Some 1,106 SkyWest flights were delayed along with 686 American Airlines flights due to their respective malfunctions.” (⦁ Daily Mail, July 30, 2018)

⦁ Airline consolidation compounds the issue. According to Jack Vonder Heide, president of Technology Briefing Centers, “Carriers that have been through multiple mergers are most likely to suffer an IT outage. This is due to the patchwork of systems, components and staffing that is prone to error.” (⦁ The Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2018)

⦁ Bob Edwards, former chief information officer of United Airlines, has said, “When fuel prices are low and there’s extra cash on hand, they want to spend it on the cool shiny things like planes and mobile apps…Nobody gets excited about the data center.” (⦁ Reuters, Aug. 12, 2016)

⦁ Airlines in the United States fail to make adequate investments into their own IT infrastructure, despite collecting $7.5 billion in baggage and reservation change fees in 2017. (⦁ Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Examples go on and on…

⦁ In July of 2016, a single failed router forced Southwest Airlines to cancel 2,300 flights over four days. (⦁ The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2017)

⦁ United Airlines experienced almost back-to-back delays toward the end of January and early February of 2017. First a computer failure delayed 481 flights in one day. (⦁ Bloomberg, Jan. 23, 2017) Two weeks later, United experienced a system-wide computer problem that “slowed down the creation of flight plans for airline crews and employees,” and delayed hundreds of flights at airports across the country. (⦁ Chicago Tribune, Feb. 8, 2017)

⦁ In August 2017, a “network issue” with SkyWest led to hundreds of Delta, American, United and Alaska Airlines flights being delayed, and 62 flights being cancelled. (⦁ Quartz)

⦁ In November 2017, American Airlines experienced a glitch in its internal computer system that allowed thousands of pilots to be granted time off and created uncertainty as to whether there would be flight crews for more than 15,000 American flights scheduled between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31. (⦁ CBS News, Nov. 30, 2017)

As has been demonstrated over and over, privatization of air traffic control would not do anything to lessen delays and travel woes for passengers, as the causes of these delays have nothing to do with ATC. The simple truth is that bad policy proposals are nothing more than beating a dead horse and will never get better with age. ATC privatization has been repeatedly debated, discredited and defeated by bipartisan majorities for years. This terrible scheme needs to be abandoned once and for all to make way for genuine air travel reforms that will provide positive benefits for the traveling public and all communities across the country.

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The remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon made for a perfectly miserable Sunday in Shanksville, Pa. It was the kind of rain and wind that can back up Northeastern airports for hours.

National Park Service volunteer guide Lou Dorshin describes the field where United 93 crashed. The flat boulder in the distance marks the point where the aircraft nose struck ground.
However, in the remote hills of Pennsylvania, it actually seemed to confer an appropriate, solemn atmosphere. The occasion was the dedication of the new Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial. The National Park Service has commemorated the crash on a still-developing 2,200-acre site, where wind chimes in a new 93-foot tower rang for the first time this week.
I attended with a contingent of students and staff from Rider University. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker – a Rider graduate, a trustee, and now a key player in the school’s homeland security master’s program – headlined the trip. As lieutenant governor on Sept. 11, 2001, one of the duties in his portfolio was disaster management. (The next month he became Pennsylvania’s 44th governor when Gov. Tom Ridge resigned to become homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.)
Schweiker’s deep involvement on 9/ 11 and its aftermath meant he was given roles this week in the 17th anniversary events, both Sunday when the new tower was dedicated and Tuesday when President Trump visited Shanksville and spoke. National Park Service volunteer guide Lou Dorshin describes the field where United 93 crashed. The flat boulder in the distance marks the point where the aircraft nose struck ground.
 Schweiker described his harrowing day on 9/ 11… [Continue reading LINK]

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