Lost in Translation


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The disappearance of a Boeing 777, one of the safest commercial jets in service, has become one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.

How is it possible for a plane like Malaysia Airline flight 370 to vanish without trace?  
A unique set of failures over the last ten years made the disappearance of a giant airliner, along with 239 passengers and crew members possible. 
Fault lies with the Malaysian carrier, radar blind-spots, no coordination between civil and military air-traffic control, shoddy passport inspection and lack of pilot background checks.
The flying public deserves much better. This situation has shown us that:
  • All passports should be double checked automatically with Interpol.
  • There should be data sent to ops directly from any flight at all times so we immediately know when-where-why if a flight is hijacked or crashes.  
Data was being sent from MH370, but certain data was not. The aircraft’s maintenance troubleshooting systems were ready to communicate with satellites if needed, but no links were opened because Malaysia Airlines had not subscribed to the full troubleshooting service, a source close to the investigation said.
  • There should be high standards internationally for all commercial air carriers regarding a pilot’s background and frame of mind.
  • When traveling overseas, hotels often require passengers to turn over their passports and these passports are sometimes stolen. Travelers should make copies of their passport for personal protection to discourage the stolen passport black market.
  • The FAA certifies other countries for their safety rating. Those countries often lobby to have their ratings skewed higher than they should be based on the number of incidents and accidents of their commercial carriers. 
FlyersRights should be the public watchdog to oversee the ratings for countries with substandard aviation standards. 
Kate Hanni, former president of FlyersRights said “I have been contacted by many families who’ve had this issue with a family member dying on a commercial airline in a Third World country, and bringing to my attention this idea that the FAA knows some countries are far safer than others to travel in. Yet if enough money flows in from the tourism industry suddenly they get a Category 1 rating regardless of putting our citizens in harms way.”
 Last week, The BBC ran a show, ‘Inside Science, Tracking Planes’ with Dr. Matt Greaves, a Lecturer in Accident Investigation at Cranfield University, UK.  
It provides a good overall assessment of radar blind-spots andwhat is and isn’t currently available. It’s only 5 minutes long and available as a podcast:
Another Malaysia Airlines Mystery: Who Pays? 
Int’l treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000
Washington Post
Published: 19:07 March 14, 2014
As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, it’s only a matter of time before the families of the lost passengers begin to ask a pair of questions: How much money will they receive for the losses of their loved ones, and who will pay?
They are questions that don’t necessarily need to wait for the plane to be found to be answered.
As it turns out, there’s an international treaty for every occasion. In this case, it’s the 1999 Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, which entered into force in 2003 and standardizes the rights of passengers on international flights.
Under the Montreal Convention, “the airline, even if it’s not responsible, is required to compensate the victims’ families,” said Mike Danko, an aviation attorney in Redwood Shores, California, who has worked on litigation related to the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July 2013. Passengers of that crash have filed suits against Asiana Airlines and, in January 2014, against Boeing.
In some instances the airline will not even wait until the wreckage is found to start discussing payments – that was the case when Air France began dispersing money to the family of each passenger aboard a flight that went down off the coast of Brazil in June 2009 just days after it disappeared.
“The question,” according to Danko, “is how much.”
The treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000 per person, but how that gets doled out is specific to each incident. After Air India Express Flight 812 crashed in May 2010, the Indian government said that the airline was liable for up to $160,000 per passenger, but when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crashed taking off from Beirut in January of the same year, the airline only paid out $20,000 per passenger.
“The real issue, as is the case in all these cases, is under whose law,” Danko said. That gets more complicated. Victims’ families have the option to sue for more damages in multiple countries under the Montreal Convention, and they will likely file suit in the country where they’re most likely to win their cases and receive the highest settlements. In this case, families of the missing passengers can file in Malaysia (because it is the base of operations for the airline), in the country of the victim’s residence, or in the country of the victim’s intended destination (which is not necessarily Beijing – if the victim had a connecting flight to another country, the family could sue in that country).
That may give an advantage to families who can bypass Chinese and Malaysian courts, like the families of the three American and nine European passengers. “In some countries, fair compensation for the loss of a son may be deemed to be $20,000. In the United States, that may be millions of dollars,” Danko said. “That is determined on where you bring suit.”
All the passengers’ families, though, will have the option to file a suit in the United States against Boeing, the manufacturer of the disappeared 777 jet.
“Usually what happens are family members who are otherwise unable to bring suit against the airline will bring suit against the manufacturer,” Danko said. For example, after a flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, crashed, families of the victims filed suit against the US companies that operated the jet and made some of its safety equipment.
But until the plane is found and more is known about the circumstances that brought it down, it would be difficult to prove that families are owed compensation because of a mechanical failure. As with so much else about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the biggest mysteries are yet to be solved.
We are still on square one. 
Balancing the Risk of Flying
A longtime FlyersRights member sent in the following thoughts:
I was in the jumpseat of airliners on a number of occasions. 
Airliners are very complex beasts, lots of things can and do fail, nearly every time I was in the cockpit there was a failure of something, the navigation system for example. Or the trip  began with a note from the previous crew, of some failure on the previous flight, something for mechanics to check later.
Flying carries some risk, in the many times I have been in a plane there were a few incidents that were serious, a stall just after rotation during a departure, a near collision with traffic from one airport on approach to another airport, etc. 
Don’t wish for zero risk, even staying home and hiding under your bed has its’ risks.
The best we can hope for is to identify risks, decide if they are worth mitigating and if they are then devising mitigation proportional to the risks.
New Start Up Airline: Avatar Airlines

Some may recall in the early 1990’s a proposed Las Vegas 747 start-up later reincarnated as  Avatar Airlines.

Now these guys are back again and have refiled with the DOT for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity along with Interstate Scheduled authority.

Utilizing the Avatar Airlines name, Family Airlines Incorporated has relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. The company says that commencing shortly it seeks to establish $300million dollars in private placement funding for the venture allowing it to be sufficiently capitalized.

The CEO Barry Michaels admits he has a “checkered past” and has “paid the price several times over” after spending fifteen months at Nellis Federal Prison for security and tax violations that occurred in 1992.

Avatar’s Chief Operating Officer is former TWA Senior Vice President, Marvin Ruthenberg.

Avatar Airlines’ Linkedin page says it will be a national ultra low fare airline currently in the certification process. Once certified, Avatar will hire over 2,000 employees during its first year.  

Avatar will use Boeing 747s equipped with 581 seats along with the additional capacity to carry 70,000 lbs of containerized freight. The airline pledges to offer “every day fares as low as $19.”

We’d love to hear the watercooler talk at DOT about this one!

Your Letters
After watching one woman holding up boarding while trying to stuff an obviously too large bag in the overhead on a recent SWA flight from SLC to PHX, we welcome more gate restrictions on carry-on bags. The woman clearly exhibited the common definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. A flight attendant repeatedly told the woman that the bag would not fit but she persisted in attempting to get the bag in. Ultimately, she had to check the bag – no cost on SWA anyway so what was the point. And there were others doing the same thing, holding up boarding to the point that push back was 15 minutes late through no fault of SWA.

There will always be passengers who push the limits for carry on bags for overhead storage.  As you point out, Southwest has a generous no bag fee policy for up to two bags, so passengers are not charged extra unless they have three bags and carry on baggage that is clearly too large for overhead storage. 
Flight attendants or gate employees should be politely telling passengers with bags too large for overhead storage that they need to gate check such bags.  

Normally passengers are not charged extra for gate checked bags. They should know when a bag is too big or when due to a full flight there is not enough overhead space that will otherwise delay a flight.
Paul Hudson, Pres.
On a flight 2 months ago on Delta I purchased 2 drinks and noticed the flight attendant swipe my credit card twice. When I questioned her she said machine was not working and she had to run it twice. When I checked my bill there were indeed two charges and the credit card company (American Express) took care of removing one.

This month I have had the same thing happen twice on United, but they are clever in that the duplicate charge appears either 2 or three days later. that has to be intentional.

If this a common or even intentional issue, you should contact your credit card company as well as the US DOT and the airline, as this is a potential fraud as well as an unfair practice. 
I would suggest you mention to the flight attendant that you have been double charged before and get his/her name and ID.  This should make them super careful about this as they could be held responsible.
Paul Hudson, Pres.
You can write letters, e-mails, call or anything else but United does NOT respond to any of them  They have turned into a flying uncaring bus line.  I recently had a minor issue with a bag that caused me grief and the person in charge simply read the rules that United has.  All that does is make me angrier towards the company and its people while the CEO Smisek, doesn’t care one bit about the legacy flyers they have.  Perhaps that is the direction our transportation is heading.
Of all US based airlines, United stock has been the worst performer and if it keeps up its current poor service, could be headed for three strikes and out bankruptcy. 
If you contact them again, suggest you mention that you are a member, and that unresponsiveness is both a violation of DOT rules and can only result in far more problems.  Also suggest you provide rating or evaluations on consumer web sites that rate travel companies as more and more companies that ignore customer complaints get avoided by other travelers who avoid them like the plague.
Paul Hudson, Pres.

 1 AB7451E 03NOV M JFKDUS*SS2   540P  655A  04NOV T /DCAB /E 
 2 AB6772E 04NOV T DUSNUE*SS2   840A  940A /DCAB /E          
 3 AB8637E 14NOV F BUDTXL*SS2  1040A 1205P /DCAB /E          
 4 AB7248E 14NOV F TXLJFK*SS2   100P  350P /DCAB /E             
(Int’l flight: JFK-Dusseldorf-Nuernberg-Buenos Aires-Berlin-JFK)                                                            
$516.00 in fuel surcharges on a $172.00 airfare!!!! The $516 should be part of the airfare.      
In discussing the growing gap in comfort, treatment and pricing, you need to at least note, if not thoroughly discuss, THE FACT THAT THIS CAN OCCUR LARGELY BECAUSE THE WELL TO DO ARE USUALLY WRITING THEIR LUXURY AIR TRIP COSTS OFF AGAINST THEIR TAXES (as corporations, family trusts and other “entities” used by the wealthy), SO THAT WE ORDINARY “COACH CLASS” TAXPAYERS (who cannot deduct the cost of our steerage flights) ARE PAYING FOR A SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THE COST OF TRANSPORTING OUR “BETTERS”. Please discuss this!

Airfares to Europe can have some incredibly high surcharges, taxes and fees that can be up to 200% on top of the airfare.  The US DOT has the authority to regulate such charges but has taken so far the laissez faire position that the “market” will resolve such issues.  In the meantime, airlines flying transatlantic routes have used this to gouge and deceive passengers more and more. These charges also avoid federal taxes so provide airlines with a tax loophole. 
Congress has so far ignored the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights which would fix this problem.  

Suggest you contact personally your US Senators and Congressman as well as their opponents in the 2014 election and demand they respond to the Bill of Rights survey.
Such charges represent a larger proportion of fares for coach passengers.  If a first-class passenger is charged the same, this would be fair unless the charge is inflated.  Coach as well as First Class airfares for business purposes are generally tax deductible.  Since first class and business class now costs considerably more than coach, it can be argued that these passengers subsidize coach fares.  On the other hand, many first class seat are actually occupied by “upgraded” passengers who paid coach fares but are frequent flyers. 
Paul Hudson, Pres.
Hey…Just an idea…

Y’all should make T-shirts that say “Flyer’s Right’”… we could wear them when we fly, to educate others in the airports, on the flights etc….maybe if people give $10 donation they get a t’shirt or a reusable/imprinted bag we could use for carry on luggage….

Just got back from a cattle fly accross country…insane!!

It would also be interesting to document via phone video how people are treated when they wear the t-shirt or have the bag….hmmm….maybe that would congress attention.

carry on with the good work.


We are looking into to this and hope to have it available next month, but need to get some orders so we know how many to order.  How many would you like?
Paul Hudson, Pres.
Flight time definition should be the same for all airlines. It should be from the time the WOW switch signals the weight is off the wheels until the WOW switch signals the weight is back on the wheels. 
All transport category aircraft have this switch because it is required for maintenance tracking.
This simple definition could level the playing field in many respects.
Airlines generally use the time as from when they pull away from the gate with the door closed till the time they arrive at a gate with the door open which is recorded by the ACARS system and used for flight crew pay.  We agree this should be the same for all airlines.  Using Wheel Up times would tend to be deceptive since it would not include tarmac time that is part of the trip and can be a very significant part.
Paul Hudson, Pres.

Two beefs that should be addressed:  1) There should be a way to get reimbursement from an airline when a fare is reduced before the passenger flies.
2) Waive or reduce the cost of changing a ticket or flight arrangement.  $100-200 is an excessive fee.
1) Some web sites like Orbitz claim to provide passengers with a check for the fare reductions.  Airlines have long established dynamic or yield based (what the market will bear) pricing, so this is a matter of competition and marketing.  As competition is reduced the price reduction/refund is likely to become less and less common.
2) is working on outlawing exorbitant (over 200% of cost contained in our proposed Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0) change and baggage fees that can be up to $500 or more.  This requires however that we have funding for experts as well as examples of exorbitant fees. 
Paul Hudson, Pres.

Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president

FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. 

Thank you. 

  FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road 

Sarasota, FL 34233

We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to