February 19, 2013 | Deleted Users Posts Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Some Things Never Change: Tarmac nightmares are still a problem Valentine’s Day this year was the sixth anniversary of the JetBlue JFK tarmac stranding, when hundreds of passengers were imprisoned for up to 11 hours on grounded planes at its hub in New York. Tarmac strandings have been reduced, but not eliminated, by the DOT Three Hour Rule. The Biscone v. JetBlue trial and related decisions show that consumers are barred from recovery unless physically injured or killed, and minor fines have not deterred JetBlue from repeated tarmac confinement violations. Being stuck for hours on a stuffy, stinky plane at the airport — every passenger’s nightmare — was supposed to be a thing of the past, thanks to the U.S. government’s threat of huge fines against the airlines. Well, not quite. The enactment of the DOT Three Hour Rule in 2009 was proposed and advocated for by FlyersRights.org and the coalition it formed in 2007. Prior to the rule, up to 250,000 passengers were being held on the tarmac for over 3 hours for reasons of commercial convenience by airlines. Tarmac strandings are an ongoing battle. Help us continue the fight with a donation to FlyersRights. Changes Loom Due to Sequestration With a March deadline fast approaching for once-unthinkable automatic federal budget cuts under sequestration, aviation sectors are sizing up possible impacts on the day-to-day operation of air traffic control services and facilities. The FAA is in the crosshairs for sequestration — with a possible $1 billion in mandatory cuts scheduled to occur. “If the sequester were to occur, we would face some very drastic cuts in services and these investments,” said FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta, in an October speech. “These cuts would impact air traffic control services,NextGen implementation, and aircraft certification — all of which are critical to our ability to move forward with aviation in this century.” The Aerospace Industries Association released a study that includes possible closure of 246 airport control towers, 1,500 fewer air traffic controllers and the loss of 9,000 security screeners and 1,600 customs officers. Obviously, fewer controllers, screeners and customs people would throw a wrench into an already stressed air travel system. Spare Change = Big Bucks – TSA Keeps the Change Travelers left more than $500,000 at airport checkpoints last year Frazzled and forgetful passengers left more than a half million dollars in spare change in the plastic bowls and bins at airport security checkpoints last year, according to NBCNews.com. That’s about $45,000 more than the amount left behind in 2011, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). What happens to all that money? All those nickels, dimes, quarters – and a smattering of poker chips and crumpled bills – gets counted, forwarded to the TSA financial office and then spent on general security operations. Some lawmakers and passengers rights groups are unhappy that TSA gets to keep the change. Money left behind by passengers at airport checkpoints is “a windfall TSA does not deserve to keep,” said Paul Hudson, executive director of FlyersRights. He’d like the funds to go to nonprofit groups that look out for the rights of travelers. “Passengers pay a lot of taxes on airline tickets and there is currently no government funding in the United States for organizations that seek to help passengers,” he said. Spare Change? – We Need Your Help Now! Seven years ago, Kate Hanni, her family and 10,000 others were forced to sit on the tarmac in Texas for nine hours over a New Year’s holiday weekend and were delayed by several days to their destinations. In response to what had become the routine warehousing of passengers in unsafe, unsanitary conditions, 50,000 of us joined together and got the Department of Transportation to rule that domestic airlines can’t do that anymore. Despite the airlines’ predictions of Armageddon, the rule has worked brilliantly. It has now been six years since implementation, and three-hour plus tarmac delays have dropped from highs of nearly 600 a month to 16 per year! Domestic and international airlines have adjusted, and we are grateful for their actions. But suppose you are subject to a tarmac confinement for over three hours, or other air travel snafu? What are your individual rights? Well, according to three New York and Federal courts in 2012, you have no rights to any recovery, unless you are killed or physically injured. And to even dare sue an airline is unconstitutional, as tarmac confinements or nearly anything else that happens in the course of airline operations is deemed a “service.” The free market will magically handle this! Finally, at least in New York City, if you manage to avoid the dismissal of your suit as “preempted” and unconstitutional, you will probably be subject to having your most private medical records and tax returns posted on the internet by airline defendants. <im g border=”0″ height=”240″ src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ipIlBmXiVZo/USSEMq309gI/AAAAAAAAAKY/std6A5LXCkg/s320/flightscancelledboard.jpg” width=”320″ /> Incredible as it sounds, airline attorneys have persuaded the courts that state and local consumer protection laws, and even some criminal laws, cannot be applied to them. They have been ruled exempt from all accountability for negligence, fraud, false imprisonment, and other laws that normally protect consumers and allow relief against every other industry. There is, in sum, no practical way the ordinary consumer can obtain relief if he or she suffers at the hands of an airline, unlike for nearly every industry that serves the general public. See Biscone v JetBlue Airways in our January 29 newsletter or online. To change this miscarriage of justice and logic requires passengers to get Congress and the DOT to reverse these in-your-face anti-passenger decisions. No easy task, and not impossible, but only with your help. You, through your membership in FlyersRights.org, had a big part in making the Three-Hour rule a reality. Today, it’s easier than ever to keep us working for you. We now have new tax status with The FlyersRights Education Fund which allows us to offer a tax write-off for 50% of your donations! In addition to the Three-Hour Rule, we’ve achieved increased bumping compensation, rules forcing airlines to clearly advertise their true prices, forced elimination of deceptively scheduled flights that are nearly always late and gotten DOT to prohibit fare increases after you purchase your tickets. When you fly, we’re watching out for you! Your membership in FlyersRights had a direct influence on all those rulemakings. But we won’t be able to continue to support our hotline, bulk e-mails, PR Newswire costs, website maintenance, social media support, legal advocacy in the courts and DOT rulemaking proceedings, and many other costs associated with running this organization unless we get a rapid influx of cash support from you! (See our Tax Returns here.) Kate Hanni and I with several other larger donors have supported the organization whenever there was a shortfall, and it’s totaled over $75,000 so far. But Kate could not continue and had to step down last month, after putting in an incredible seven years of full time unpaid dedication. I, and other FlyersRights.org volunteers, cannot do what Kate did, but with your help we firmly believe that FlyersRights.org can achieve much more. With your help, we can restore US air travel to the world leading dependable, customer friendly experience it once was, while increasing speed and efficiency, maintaining safety, security, affordability and accountability. Please make that donation now, and prove us right, that airline passengers will support the only grassroots, donation based airline passenger organization, which receives no industry or government money, stands up for passengers without conflict in halls of Congress, before the DOT, and in the courts. Kate and I can no longer support the shortfall. We need you now! If you value a toll-free hotline, if you value the information in our newsletters, if you want an end to continued enhancement of airline industry corporate power at the expense of passenger interests, we need your help NOW! How Do We Move Forward? Friends, our operating expenses have left us, frankly, less than penniless. We must have more sustaining support or FlyersRights.org will simply not be able to continue. The many contributions you have made to FlyersRights over the years have been of great help, but we need to ask more. As you’ll see on our donations page, we have subscription levels beginning as low as $3 per month. Can you commit to the price of one low priced airline ticket or $199 per year? If not, can you commit to the price of a good cup of coffee once a month to sustain the voice of airline passenger rights? Is it worth the price of a couple of coffees each month to be sure that our hotline is available the next time you have an air travel problem? Please, go to the FlyersRights donation page and commit to a sustaining subscription. If you can do more than three dollars a month, please consider it. If you just can’t commit to a subscription, then your one-time contribution will ease our financial problem. We have achieved so much, and we’re still moving forward on even more issues. Help us, help you!