The eighth amendment to the US Constitution prohibits “Cruel and unusual punishment” – meant to safeguard Americans against suffering, pain, or humiliation.

Can sitting in an economy class airline seat apply to that definition, considering how painful it is to endure for many Americans?

FlyersRights has argued in court that health and safety are at risk because airlines continue to squeeze more and more people into their planes.

We continue to be astounded that the FAA accepts the airlines’ word that these extremely tight seating configurations will allow safe evacuations filled with a hodgepodge of old, young, disabled, terrified, passengers.

Ten years ago, FlyersRights successfully pushed for regulation prohibiting the stranding of passengers on the tarmac. For years, airlines routinely trapped passengers for 6, 8 10 hours or more amid inhumane conditions. 

Today people are trapped again, but in sardine seats.

Tarmac Delay rules were good for passengers, and seat space rules would undoubtedly be good as well.

The airline industry lobbying group Airlines for America says, “Government should not regulate, but instead market forces, which reflect consumer decisions, and competition should determine what is offered. Those offerings are one component of what drives competition and product differentiation among airlines. And as with any commercial product or service, customers vote every day with their wallet.”

(Read about the illusion of “airline choice” in our May newsletter)

But there’s no market solution to the virtual monopolies these airlines have created through mergers.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) asked airline executives: “How much do you hate the American people?” at a House Transportation Committee on passenger mistreatment in May.
Yet, these same members of Congress are subservient to the airlines industry’s money.

Action Alert!

We are asking YOU  to take photos and/or video of cramped airline seats and passenger space problems – because a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video a million!

Thank you!

Your Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:

I wanted to log a complaint against American Airlines.  I haven’t worked with your group before but a relative gave me your information after hearing my travel experience, so I wanted to reach out.

My family (myself, wife and 3 kids ages 1, 2 and 5) recently encountered a nightmare travel experience with American Airlines. Our PHL – LAX direct flight on 8/12 was delayed 5 hours (2 hours in the airport because the pilot didn’t show up, and another 3 hours on the tarmac with no food offered or offering of assistance with our kids) and an ultimate cancelation of the flight.  The reason for the delay/cancellation was unclear, although the ‘story’ we heard (after the fact) was that a passenger couldn’t control her child and buckle her in her seat, and the flight attendant was rude and kept warning her.  This led to a verbal altercation and the choice was to remove the woman and her child from the plane.  Although we didn’t know what was going on during this time..the only communication from the pilot was ‘we have a situation and need to go back to the gate to wait for law enforcement.’ Naturally, this scared all the passengers because the instinct was to have concerns about violence/terrorism, etc.  There are many more examples of poor judgment used by American Airlines staff during this time that I can share.  As far as I know there was nothing mechanically wrong with the plane.

We were forced to spend the night at a hotel in Philadelphia, and we were rebooked on another flight at 6 pm the next night, and it was a connection through Chicago.  (Note we paid a very high price to get direct flights due to the challenge of traveling with 3 young kids).  The connection was tight, and we were reassured by our flight attendants that they knew we were coming and we would make our connection.  After rushing our kids through the airport we were denied entrance to the plane because the door was closed — it hadn’t taken off yet.  We were shocked they didn’t hold it for us for just a few minutes!  We were able to get on standby on the last flight out of Chicago and we arrived home at 2am PST (but our family was on EST physically…so it was really like getting in at 5am).  I’m sure you can imagine this with kids so young!

Just about every American staff member was apathetic or downright rude throughout our 2 days of travel.  My wife and kids were in tears because of the experience, and I’d like to take any possible action against American.  As mentioned, there are more examples of poor communication and customer service that I can share with you. All of this is documented in correspondence to them via email.  They offered us $800 in future travel vouchers and reimbursement of our hotel in Philly…but the trip still cost me $2100 and I feel it’s wildly inappropriate to pay this based on our horrific experience.  There was no empathy or attention paid to our young kids — at one point on the first flight, I moved our cooler in the aisle to get milk for my 1-year old, and as soon as I moved it the flight attendant made an announcement to keep the aisle clear.  This comes after they offered us nothing but water after such a long delay.

I have no idea how you work at flyers rights, but either way, I wanted to reach out and see if you could help.  Hopefully, I didn’t waste your time with such a long email — I understand that everyone has their bad ‘travel story’.  In all honesty, I’m a very patient person who rarely complains, but this situation was so egregious and traumatic for my family, I feel like I have to speak up.  Please let me know if/how to proceed with this complaint.

FYI my original flight was AA 701 out of Philadelphia to LAX (direct) on 8/12.



Dear MC,

So sorry hear about what is an all too common air travel experience. Airlines have overcrowded planes, have no required reserves of equipment or personnel, leading to long delays that can be days. 

Unless you have travel insurance the airlines generally will not pay much in delay compensation for domestic trips, though had this been an international trip compensation can go up to $5500.  You can complain to the DOT and an airline can be fined for holding you on the tarmac for over 3 hours.

Legally speaking airlines are generally exempt from all consumer protection laws excepting only claims for physical injury or death. working to change this deplorable air travel situation with about 50 reform proposals that would restore reasonable regulation, relieve congestion and promote airline competition. In the meantime, you can demand a refund when a flight is canceled or excessively delayed, try to use your ticket on another carrier (this use to be required but is now voluntary with the airlines), take alternate transportation where available, have a Plan B, avoid flights with poor on time records, and/or travel with the expectation of delay. You can also join and donate to as the more you do the more we can do.

I am also forwarding your note to our hotline director who may have some other tips and advice.

Best regards 
Paul Hudson
877-FLYERS6 hotline

Dear FlyersRights:

Fuel for your lawsuit argument:

Airline employees when dead heading, must also ride in those seats. So, it could be a workers comp / union issue, not to mention all the business employee travelers.

Another one in my company who flies as a passenger just had a cardiac event just three days after flying back from Alaska to Huntsville AL.  I think it’s related, but I’m not a doctor.

While I am a commercial pilot, I am NOT an airline employee.  I spend a lot of time “in the back” in those cramped seats.


Dear FlyersRights:

Firstly, many thanks to you and to your team for the work you do to benefit so many air travellers around the world.

Next, congratulations for what to me is a huge victory. I wish you all the best of luck in your sisyphean task.

I am attaching the card below to show you that on our two short-haul flights from Vienna to London and back, we flew on these planes that can only be described as appropriate for Lilliputian people. The last time I saw (but did not need to use!) “rest rooms” like the ones on this aircraft, was at my daughters’ preeschools! I am slightly handicapped and only managed to enter backwards. Inside, I was unable to turn around, so I washed my hands sideways. There were 30 rows and 180 seats on this model. I hope that all Americans who read this are comforted to know that the USA is not the only country subjecting fare paying passengers to medieval torture. I cannot tell you about the seat pitch, because I did not take a measuring tape with me. All I know is that their trick is to lower the seats to make you sit in an almost crouching position, and to keep you upright,  bending your neck slightly forward (no reclining at all possible) so as to make you sit tight and practically motionless, like on an electric chair. That was my sensation. I dared not take a picture of the endless rows of seats because I had the feeling they would object, or worse.

Gratefully yours,
Vienna, Austria


Dear FlyersRights:

Some of the people in the comments section (Aug. 2 newsletter) have reported severe pain, difficulty walking, need to use a wheelchair, etc., as consequences of airline seating. I suggest you (FlyersRights) together with those passengers bring a class action lawsuit against the airlines, airplane manufacturers, airplane seat manufacturers and the FAA.  It’s not the airlines acting alone, the seat manufacturers, airplane manufacturers and FAA all play a role in the seating on airliners.


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