June 3, 2017 | Kendall Creighton One thing we don’t do enough is answer your questions. In this new era of abuse and assault onboard US carriers, you have many questions. Should the Civil Aeronautics Board, which used to regulate airlines, be reintroduced in the US? Several countries have this agency to serve and assist airline passengers. What is driving conflict situations in the air? We’ve had years of pent-up rage against the airlines, which is now being released. A lot of the incivility in the news lately comes from stress. From the moment you arrive at the airport and have to deal with the automated self-checkin kiosks that have replaced human counter staff, to the long lines at security, to the ‘gotcha fees’ at the gate; then maybe an announcement that your flight’s overbooked (and if it isn’t, then it’s guaranteed 100% full) – people are at wit’s end by that point. US carriers know passengers have few alternatives, because the industry has consolidated down to 4 major carriers (United, American, Delta, Southwest) that control 85% of the market. Most airports are dominated by one or two airlines. The big carriers don’t compete against each other – instead they prefer to join forces to keep airfares high. The US Department of Justice has brought a lawsuit against US airline collusion. Additionally, the airlines grant themselves all sorts of power over who can be removed from a flight – embedded in the fine print that passengers agree to when they click “confirm” to buy a ticket. In fact, airline passengers have fewer consumer rights than any other classification of consumers. What role do more cramped cabins have? This is the number one complaint we hear from air travelers: Shrinking legroom and cramped seats. People are tired of being packed into planes like sardines. What’s particularly maddening is that the airlines have been raking in record profits for seven straight years while putting the squeeze on passengers. Fuel prices haven’t been this low in years, yet fares remain high, cabins cramped and junk fees numerous. We predict that seats will continue to shrink so airlines can upcharge for additional legroom. What roles do the increased number of flyers have? It’s a real pressure cooker now. We’re putting 100, 200, 300 people in an aluminum tube usually designed for far fewer -because the airline industry is always looking to add capacity. The result is people feel claustrophobic and flight attendants have a very difficult job with little flexibility to mitigate and arbitrate issues between passengers. FlyersRights is attempting to remedy this by petitioning the FAA to set rules on minimum seat and aisle sizes for comfort, health and safety. It’s hard to evacuate when you’re sharing your legroom with several other passengers. And there’s a greater risk of developing blood clots when a person’s folded like a pretzel for several hours at high altitude. This can be especially dangerous if a clot forms in the legs and travels to the lungs. Are airlines doing enough to tackle the issue of conflict in cabins? US carriers have a ways to go to gracefully de-escalate conflicts. But Air New Zealand has an interesting virtual reality HoloLens AR headset (link) that reads passenger emotions. Perhaps that’s a solution? No one believes that continuing to give airlines free reign to abuse and assault passengers will make air travel great again. What role does increased security and delays have in feeding passenger and crew frustrations? Today’s flying experience is far from glamorous. Passengers wait in long lines for security screening, push and shove at the gate to be first on board, and then fight for limited overhead bin space. So they’re already flustered by the time they get to their row and see how cramped it is. This has given rise to creative gadgets like the Knee Defender – that blocks the person in front from reclining. Increased TSA wait times cause missed flights. Now the US is considering a laptop ban on all flights into and out of the country as part of an effort to protect against potential security threats, announced Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week. Do you think cabin crews are equipped to deal with conflict issues? Cabin crew have training to control disruptive airline passenger behavior, but tensions are sky-high. Flight attendants have a hard job. Passengers feel they’re paying more for worse service. Flying has become something to endure, not something to enjoy. Do you have plans to go global? Yes – currently FlyersRights has offices in Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Germany. Our small, volunteer-based nonprofit organization shows what a tiny number of advocates can do for tens of millions of airline passengers! TIME SINCE CONGRESS HAS FAILED TO REACH A DEAL ON PASSENGER RIGHTS: 51 DAYS Today is Day 51 and counting since Dr. Dao was dragged off a United flight. The airlines’ CEO and Chicago airport police have defended the violent removal of Dr. Dao for refusing to give up his seat. Then they apologized and made a secret financial settlement with a gag order. Hearings held by the House and Senate on May 2 and May 4 threatened new regulations, and yet the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Agency have said and done nothing. US airlines say they want more power over passengers, control of Air Traffic Control and the authority to tax passengers. Wall Street bets United customers will forgive and forget. CEO Oscar Munoz says no United employee will be disciplined. He gets $14 million bonus and United stock rebounds. Enough is enough!