November 19, 2013 | Kendall Creighton AA, US Airways Prepare For Take-Off,Passengers Prepare For Rip-Off Tuesday, November 19, 2013 In a sudden reversal last week, the Justice Department appeared to knuckle under to the American-US Airways’ massive lobbying effort. Last week the government announced it was dropping its lawsuit to block the carriers from merging, stating they had all “reached a settlement.“ But three months ago, DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder said this: “The American people deserve better. This transaction would result in consumers paying the price – in higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices.” Back then in its complaint, the Justice Department strongly objected to only three legacy airlines plus Southwest controlling 80 percent of domestic air service. The DOJ also warned there were “thousands” of routes where US Airways and American “compete directly,” and that competition between would be eliminated. Dozens of flight attendants, pilots and airline union members rallied in front of the Capitol 9/18/2013 in support of a merger that would create the world’s largest airline. Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press/MCT Since then, a vast lobbying campaign was launched by American and US Airways. Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor and formerly President Obama’s chief of staff, along with the mayors of Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Fort Worth, Miami and Charlotte, N.C., signed a letter calling on Mr. Holder to drop his opposition to the merger. Sixty-eight Democratic members of Congress wrote a similar letter to President Obama. The two airlines also organized a “fly in” for more than 300 employees, who lobbied lawmakers before rallying on Capitol Hill. Now, the DOJ says that if the two carriers forfeit takeoff and landing slots at airports, that would foster competition and lead to lower prices. FlyersRights president Paul Hudson told the New York Times that the effects of consolidation would overwhelm any concessions won by the Justice Department. “It doesn’t begin to deal with the fact that the industry is now so concentrated that the big four airlines are going to have unprecedented pricing power,” he said, referring to United, Delta, Southwest and the new merged American. But giving up the slots, Mr. Hudson said, is “a slight mitigation, certainly a mitigation of concentration, most particularly at Reagan National.” (NYT link) “Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities that control major airports use their major airports as cash cows and patronage troughs. They stand to profit from monopolistic airline mergers and practices that drive up airfares and traffic and may also wish to protect their own antitrust exemptions. Airline passenger advocates are conspicuously from their controlling boards.” “But this merger is not yet a done deal. Under the Tunney Act, enacted to prevent back-room antitrust settlements, the American public will have 60 days to comment on the settlement once it is published in the Federal Register, and at least two courts must then approve the merger. The law also requires that the parties release all their settlement communications, which should be interesting.” We Want To Hear From YOU What’s your view? Should FlyersRights support or oppose the AA-US Airways merger? called a “race to the bottomIt’s called a “race to the bottom It’s called a “race to the bottom Planes N Paws The Airlines Are Going To The Dogs The New York Times is reporting on a backlash to emotional support animals on planes. The increasing appearance of pets on airplanes whose owners say they are needed for emotional support goes back to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating that animals used to aid people with depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness. “Emotional support animals… travel free, and restrictions on their size and species are left to the airlines’ discretion.” “They are not required to be caged. And unlike service animals, which undergo extensive training, they require no training.” But their presence on planes is causing resentment from passengers and flight attendants who say that cabins have become crowded with uncaged animals who have no business being there. FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson’s opinion: Airlines used to provide for nearly all animals to be transported in carriers and kennel or baggage sections of airliners. Now many airlines have reduced, restricted or phased out their animal transport facilities. Instead, most airlines now allow dogs or cats to be transported in carriers that fit under seats, which generally means 8 pounds or less. Guide dogs of nearly any size are permitted in the cabin due at least in part to laws that prohibit discrimination against the disabled. This has led to a big increase in dogs on airliners and in airports and calls for requiring “pet relief” areas at airports. Allowing dogs for emotional support will no doubt allow a new big increase in pets in airline passenger cabins. Clearly, this development represents another degradation of service for passengers who are allergic or phobic to dogs or cats, or just want their seatmates to be humans. I have already observed families traveling with medium size dogs who seem to be motivated more by cost saving and convenience rather than necessity for handicap reasons. As a long-time owner of two 15 lb. dogs who can’t fit under seats, I can appreciate dog owners’ unwillingness to have medium or large dogs placed in stressful cargo transporters. However, clearly rules will be needed that protect human air travelers as well as non-human. Perhaps, an 8 pound limit on emotional support animals in the cabin with pet friendly sections of airliners where airlines want to be able to transport animals but not offer kennel service would be a start. From the Mailbag! Question: I fly a moderate amount. I am usually in the air at least twice a month. Last Spring I applied for Global Entry, as I do not like to go through the large scanner, (The main reason for my application). The cost, 100.00 dollars non-refundable. After a four month wait I had an interview. I was told I would know whether I was ‘Cleared’ in two weeks. Five weeks later I inquired about my application and I was told I had a hold on it. I had had a record of a DUI from 1994, even though I paid all fines and completed service, and it was completely finished and off my driving record. I still had to call the managing TSA officer. That was August. Twenty some calls to the office, I finally caught up with the Managing Officer (Mike Gulkis, PHL international) for one conversation for four minutes. “You will have your GE pass in a week”. Three weeks later I receive a notice from GOES email: “Denied -NO COMMENT-“ So I took it to the Ombudsman, Three weeks and no response there. Is TSA Broken? I think so. More discussion of TSA I think would be healthy at Flyersrights.org regards, JH Answer: Now that it has been 12 years since the TSA was established to stop terrorism against American aviation, the lack of transparency and due process, coupled with unnecessarily intrusive searches, confiscations or even theft of property, plus sometimes humiliating invasions of privacy is inexcusable. This situation has undermined public support and confidence for the TSA and is potentially opening new opportunities for terrorists. Americans should not be denied trusted traveler status because of old traffic offenses. Tens of thousands should not be placed on “watch lists” for an old misdemeanor or tax offenses, for having complained of bad service on an airline or abusive searching by TSA, or an array of other non-terrorism related matters. The burden should be on the TSA to justify such decisions. Particularly since TSA Administrator Pistole negotiated quick entry status for Saudi Arabian citizens, decided to allow knives back on airliners (until reversed by public, flight attendant, airline and Congressional and TSA screener outcry), was countermanded by the courts in the use of nude scanners, and most recently failed to have protection or timely rescue procedures in place for TSA screeners from a mass shooting at LAX. Elementary American due process requires notice and opportunity to be heard. The deprivation or severe restriction on the constitutional right to travel and the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches whether by the TSA or an airline should require the opportunity to confront ones accuser, rational decision making and the opportunity for administrative and judicial review, as set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act. Secret proceedings and decisions as in the secret Star Chamber of 18th Century England, the delay and opaqueness government processes of other totalitarian systems described by Franz Kafka, and 20th Century communist nation judicial systems should have no place in the US air transportation system, especially 12 years after 9/11. Paul Hudson,FlyersRights president Q. Dear Flyers Rights, My wife and I’s confirmed seats keep getting split up on flights we’ve booked. I make the reservations, confirm the seats, but when I get to the airport they have rearranged us. Friends of our are experiencing the same problems. They are a family of 9 and have made confirmed seating on their flight to Australia in February. On a weekly basis, they must look at their confirmed seats to see if they have been split up. This has happened several times to them. At first, I thought it was just a computer glitch until I read the following article in USA TODAY. Can anything be done? Thanks much, PC A. This would appear to be both unfair and deceptive practice that the DOT should be required to stop even under the existing laissez faire for everything approach. The airline is depriving you of a service without your consent or due compensation, (i.e. reserved seats) and should definitely be held accountable. Paul Hudson,FlyersRights president Q. Please do NOT support cell phones on airplanes. Can you imagine sitting next to someone who chatters away for an entire flight? JD A. FlyersRights does not support cell phone calls in the air for invasion of privacy and safety reasons. The use of cell phones in airplane mode should not pose these problems, but no doubt some passengers will need to be shown where that button is. See our comments to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post. Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights is funded completely through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible. Thank you for your continued support! Or: FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road Sarasota, FL 34233 FlyersRights will offer premium memberships for a $10 monthly (or more) contribution. This will grant you direct access to FlyersRights experts to help resolve air travel problems in real time and where necessary referral to legal assistance. Guidance and advice is, and will continue to be, free to all passengers. But intervention or representation for an individual passenger which has not been provided before, is intended for contributing members. Airlines, on the other hand, are imposing extra fees for services and features that were previously included in the airfare, and were never free.