February 10, 2015
FlyersRights received a reply last week from the major airlines, via their trade group, Airlines For America (A4A), as to why ticket prices haven’t come down with the price of oil. 

(AP Photo/Ric Francis)

An A4A spokesperson refuted our concerns and relied on a slipery game of slight of hand and distraction from the issue.

They wrote, “Given your reputations as consumer advocates, I am sure you are aware that we are in the safest period of U.S. commercial aviation history, that inflation-adjusted fares are well below the levels experienced by passengers at the outset of deregulated domestic air service and that service options to customers are expanding.

Now, we weren’t challenging safety records, and saying that today’s deregulated fares are the lowest since 1978 is dodging the the subject of fees.

Over the past five years alone, the base price of flying has climbed 12%

BIG SQUEEZE: Economy seats can be a tight fit for all but the most vertically challenged. (

not counting extra fees. Today, just bag fees alone can add hundreds of dollars to a family of four’s ticket prices.

The A4A letter proceeds, “However, your letter indicates that you are not aware that airlines are adding seats to the marketplace to accommodate demand for travel“.

What a clever way to say sardining passengers. And more seats at the same price does not mean lower prices for consumers.

They continue, “In addition, U.S. airlines have been investing $1.1 billion per month of capital expenditures aimed at improving the product, customer experience and environmental footprint. Another outcome of our improving financial condition is that airline workers are enjoying greater job security as well as increases in wages and benefits“.

The flight attendants fired last month for pointing out a possible security threat may dispute this.

So, the airline CEO gentlemen’s club relies on a slippery game of sleight of hand and false pretences to conceal their real intentions.  

Excluding ownership, fuel makes up the largest percentage of an airline’s direct operating costs. As an aircraft ages, its fuel efficiency declines.(

Then, again, A4A trotted out the line, “When the price of coffee beans falls, no one asks Starbucks why his or her latte does not cost less,” they told The Washington Post.

You want Starbucks to expand its stores and products, give back to its baristas, and reward investors. Airlines are no different,” they declared.

That’s fine if Starbucks was serving hot oil in their cups. Otherwise, there’s no comparison. Fuel represents an inordinately large percentage of airline costs, 30-40%, far more than Starbucks.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, back to 2008, when the airlines first added fuel surcharges -which were portrayed as temporary. When the price of oil fell, the surcharges would come off.
United’s chief operating officer, John P. Tague said back then, “With record-breaking fuel prices, we must pursue new revenue opportunities, while continuing to offer competitive fares, by tailoring our products and services around what our customers value most and are willing to pay for”.

Let’s see if we’ve got this right. Rising fuel prices were given as the reason for an increase in airline tickets. Supply and demand is the reason for maintaining current prices -via service cuts and flight reductions. 

The profit derived from these factors will be reinvested in the airlines, providing more money for contracts, better service, more leg room, etc. Sounds like a win-win situation – if you believe it!

 Your Letters

We used to pay for the space. Then it was taken away and sold back to us as extra. I would have rather ticket prices just steadily increased with rising costs and inflation than to have my flight parted out and sold back to me a la carte. 
If it really cost $600 to fly me to NY comfortably tell me that. I’ll pay it and if I feel great about the flight and service, I’ll fly the airline again. Don’t advertise a ticket for $400 then charge me for my bags, carry on, leg room in the federally mandated exit row, and a stale sandwich while continually pestering me with the opportunity to upgrade myself out of artificially induced discomfort.
Dear FlyersRights,

I’ve been reading Flyersrights for a number of years and generally agree with what you have to say and hope you are successful with Congress.  HOWEVER…….you continue to criticize Southwest Airlines in your Newsletter for various issues, the latest involves possible safety issues.  At the same time, SW is the ONLY major airline that continues to offer free checked bags and no fees for cancellations/changes.  Those two items are quite expensive with other airlines.  WHY DON’T YOU DO A GOOD story every once in a while rather than continually criticize?!!! 
I was once a supporter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  However, it got to the point that it didn’t matter to them if a food company or FDA or USDA tried to do the right thing.  All they could do was criticize. 
I’m basically tired of hearing groups like FlyersRights and CSPI do nothing but criticize.  Do your stuff with respect to what rights we should have by lobbying Congress, but for heaven’s sake stop killing the GOOSE!!!
Dear RS,
You are right, Southwest still has free bags, for now, and that is commendable. However they’re losing some LUV due to their high cost structure in recent years, and the devaulating their frequent flyer program that awards miles based on the cost of your ticket, not the distance of your flight.  

Kendall Creighton
Dear FlyersRights,  

It would seem to me that the airlines have a death wish and really want to go out of business by treating customers shabbily with not only too many fees, etc., that make flying too expensive for anyone other than the most wealthy, but also stuffing people into airplanes that are possibly not airworthy. 
Logically, when a business does a bad job of serving its customers, whether providing a service or manufacturing a product, and the customers go away, that business usually winds up going out of business and closing its doors. 
It is time to start a boycott of the airlines that pack people like sardines into the aircraft and force them to either change or declare bankruptcy. People can either stay home or use other means of transportation like driving or taking the train. Business can be done by video hookup and electronic transfer without the expense of having to send people in person. Of course, ancillary industries like hotels, cruise lines, etc. (would also suffer), but pressure from them might force the airlines to look at their practices and make changes.
I signed your petition and hope that, if enough people follow through, the airline industry will change if they want to stay in business.

Dear FlyersRights,

I believe somebody is going to have to die, or be seriously hurt, during an emergency evacuation before minimum seat size and pitch standards are established.  I hope I am wrong, though. 

Dear FlyersRights,
I just flew steerage iad-den in an older (thick pad seat) UA 737 w/ a full recline knucklehead slob in front of me and a kicking child behind.
Is there a web site that compares seat pitches? I bet there is. At least I had the window-not middle!

Dear FlyersRights,

I am sure you know this already,  but I just received a message from Delta airlines, telling me all about their new wonderful first class and other high-cost options:

And the bottom of the page links me to the new “basic economy” (e.g. only class affordable for most people) class:


It looks like things are getting worse again.
Thank you so much for all that you are doing.


Dear FlyersRights,
Sometimes they make it right.
On Thursday 5 Feb. we flew Delta Economy Munich to Atlanta and DL Atlanta to Phoenix with four checked bags including skis. In Atlanta we went through the bag pick up, drop off customs Kabuki Theatre. (Returning US citizens no longer have to fill out an itemized customs form!)
While in the air, before arriving in Phoenix Delta messaged and emailed that one of our bags did not make the flight in Atlanta. Before the bags arrived on the carousel in Phoenix, Delta baggage office identified the missing tag (not the item) and told me what flight it was on and when it would arrive in Phoenix.
Friday morning I received an early phone call from baggage delivery and repeated messages and emails from Delta with regular updates reporting bag status. Bag was delivered to our door in Peoria, AZ about 10 a.m.
On another note, food on Delta 130 Atlanta to Munich Economy was inedible but probably typical. Food on DL Economy OUT of Munich was so good I could have eaten another. That was followed by an unexpected excellent mid-flight snack of hummus, crackers, and basil and olive oil olives – go figure.
Now the new Delta Comfort+ seats on domestic flights are something else – waay too narrow. I’m 160 lbs and could not get a hand between me and either seat side to retrieve the seat belts.
Dear FlyersRights,
Insurance companies have to pay out money when a plane crashes, poor aircraft maintenance increases risk of a crash, thus I expect insurance companies will be interested in linking premiums to maintenance.
In view of your recent “Race To The Bottom” newsletter, I suggest you instigate insurance companies against airlines that don’t do proper aircraft maintenance.

Dear FlyersRights,

I may have already told you all the new Spirit Airlines planes that have been ordered, AirBus, have seating arrangements from 160 to 200 seats – depending on the configuration.  Spirit has orders all 37 planes with 196  (4 less than maximum) those are the Big Front Seats so they can charge an extra fee that could be more than the basic fee to fly.
One of the most profitable changes that Spirit instituted years ago was to change the weight limit from 50 pounds per suitcase to only 40.  therefore it is better to have a carryon and pay an extra $5 and load it with 60 pounds (if you can) then to pay the extra $50 to $100 for the overweight ‘checked suitcase’.
Newest ‘screw the passenger’ method by Spirit:
If you go online to potentially buy a ticket you MUST put in your email address.  (no one else does that).  If you find a fare/price that seems ok and leave the Spirit web site to check orbitz or another airline and later come back to Spirit – guess what?  The price of that seat that you saw 2 minutes ago is now gone and the price has gone up.  Proof: I did that from one computer using one email address and the fare indeed went up.  Yet at the same time frm another computer and email address the fare was $10 lower or the same as I originally saw.  spirit has now figured the way to get even more revenue if you don’t book the moment you see the fare.
they have calculated every which way to squeeze money from their passengers.  AND the seats do not RECLINE!
Finally: if you don’t pay for any seat Spirit will assign one.  that seat is always in a middle seat in the back to “TEACH you a lesson”.  Pay even an extra $9 to sit in the back rows but in an aisle row

Dear FlyersRights,
Another “cute” thing that AA is doing: Award flights to Europe with fewer points are being booked on BA which has a higher fuel tax. The AA flights (which are usually the same (especially when going to London) require more points. The mile-saver awards cannot be found on AA; they are on BA and costs more in tax.!!
Just that I recently read about the ridiculously high fuel surcharge on BA, especially since fuel prices have fallen.  As far as how AA books their FF awards to Europe, I have no info.
Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director

Dear FlyersRights,

I’m wondering if anyone has studied the benefits, if there are any, of shipping your baggage by FedEx or UPS, even the USPS. Any comparisons?

From The Onion

Airlines Offering Complimentary In-Flight College Courses

In addition to movies, TV shows, and other in-flight entertainment, JetBlue and Virgin America have begun offering passengers complimentary streaming video lectures from classes at top universities. What do you think?

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