March 18, 2014 | Kendall Creighton Passport Insecurity Malaysian Flight Points To Loophole In Passport Checks Tuesday, March 11, 2014 The discovery that two passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 used stolen passports indicates a huge vulnerability in aviation security, many news outlets are reporting. Malaysian officials confirmed the sham passengers bought their tickets through China Southern Airlines, which was code-sharing the flight with Malaysia Airlines. The Secretary General of international police agency Interpol expressed frustrationthat few of Interpol’s 190 member countries search the database and blamedauthorities for “waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates.” No authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysian Airline plane took off. The men used false identities to book flights onward to Europe which means they did not need Chinese visas and avoided the additional scrutiny that comes with visa applications. FlyersRights demands that foreign countries check Interpol against their manifests to ensure the people on the jets are who they say they are. Otherwise it’s not safe for Americans to fly there. The FAA should be downgrading Malaysia’s rating for foreign travel until Malaysia begins checking their manifests against Interpol’s list of stolen passports. Using the Interpol database of stolen passports is considered crucial because it would otherwise be difficult for airline agents to spot altered passports. Steve Vickers, the chief executive of a Hong Kong-based security consulting company that specializes in risk mitigation and corporate intelligence in Asia told the NYTimes the presence of at least two travelers with stolen passports aboard a single jet was rare. “It is fairly unusual to have more than one person flying on a flight with a stolen passport,” said Mr. Vickers, who publicly warned a month ago that stolen airport passes and other identity documents in Asia merited a crackdown. “The future of this investigation lies in who really checked in.” Malaysian officials also said five ticketed passengers failed to board the flight but said that their luggage was removed from the plane before it took off. Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said this also was being investigated, but he didn’t say whether this was suspicious. Since the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 in which FlyersRights’ president Paul Hudson lost his daughter, verifying the identity of passengers had become fundamental. Read More: ABCNews Read More: USAToday Dreamliner Snags India On The Warpath Over 787 Problems India’s Director General of Civil Aviation in charge of safety told the Boeing team that the Air India Dreamliners have from induction suffered 44 major engineering snags that are direct manufacturing issues. There have been nine equipment failures, six landing gear troubles, seven flight control issues, four navigation snags and three windshield cracks. Boeing and Air India say that none of these issues have affected the safety of the aircraft or passengers – so far. Air India is seeking compensation from Boeing for three major problem areas with the Dreamliner – the over-three-year delay in delivery of the aircraft, grounding of the aircraft for four months last year, and for failure to meet “guaranteed performance” standards of fuel consumption as the plane has not proven to be as fuel efficient as it was promised and was the deal-clincher for Air India placing an order for 27 of them. Read More: WSJ Carry-on crackdown United cracks the whip on bag-size United is pulling its hub out of Cleveland Hopkins and now this. The airline will be cracking down on carry-on bags as of March 1, reports AP. Emails to United Frequent Flyers have gone out outlining the decree. Bag sizers will peg the offenders and send those criminals with ‘oversize’ bags back to the ticket counters to pay the check-bagged fee. No word on what happens when the delay to double back to the ticket counter causes you to miss your flight. Some travelers are pointing out this is part of a larger attempt by United to collect more fees. The airline says it’s simply trying to speed up the boarding process. Basically there is no competition from many junk fees among legacy airlines, as the others tend to match any increase started by one airline, as they all benefit. In a January earnings call, United’s chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said the airline hopes to collect an extra $700 million from extras such as baggage fees and the sale of extra legroom during the next four years. American Airlines asks staff at some of its largest airports “to do an eyeball test on size of carry-ons.” The airline has even used tape measures to enforce polices. Delta said that “during peak times at hubs and larger airports” it has agents near security to look for oversize carry-on bags and has improved technology to check bags faster at gates. United is going further than other airlines. Its bag sizers (see above pic) have a space for bags going in overhead bins and another for those items going under the seats. Money Talks Despite the baggage crackdown with United, you can still receive superstar treatment, for a price. “At the highest level of service and status, airlines will meet and greet passengers at the curb, provide private screening and whisk them planeside in a sedan car on the ramp,” Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This level of service normally eludes ‘you and me’ but is now within the grasp of anyone with the swipe of a credit card.” In some cases, Delta will even deliver you to your flight in a Porsche, Sorensen says. It used to be that airlines reserved kingly treatment for their highest-mileage frequent fliers. Those days have departed and flown off into the sunset. Delta announced recently that it’s changing its frequent-flier program so its biggest spenders get the most rewards. “If you have the money, you can buy just about whatever you want,” said Peggy Fischer, owner of Shooting Star Travels in West Bend, Wis. “And people are becoming way more accepting of that.” The trend shows no signs of slowing. Look for more airlines to simply use pay-as-you-go, a la carte, methods to seduce more revenue from those willing to buy more perks. Could pay toilets on flights be next? Ireland’s Ryanair once toyed with the idea. Will flying only be available for the well-off? Airline consolidation has not been friendly to the consumer. The question becomes; How much would it cost to be treated like an actual customer or at the very least, like a human being? At this rate flying will become available only for the well-off. Transportation in all forms should be available to all and made affordable. Your Letters We just returned from a vacation in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Our United Airlines flight to Pittsburgh had a connection in Newark. Our flight from Puerto Plata arrived on time in Newark at 5:50PM. By the time we deplaned, collected our bags, went through Immigration and Customs, and rechecked our bags we missed our connection which departed at 7:00PM. Having flown internationally before I knew that it was not possible make this connection. When I made the flight reservations I questioned the reservation agent about this connection and was told that it was a “legal” connection. This cost me an additional $325 for a hotel room, dinner and breakfast. My questions are: What is a “legal” connection? Who decides what a “legal” connection is? What do we have to do to prohibit airlines from booking connections that cannot possibly be made in real life? Who do I write or call about this issue? Thank you, C.S. When I investigated this for another member, I found that a so called “legal” connection is actually determined by the airport. I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that 70 minutes is enough time to go through customs and connect at any airport. Here is United’s legal connection chart from their own website that says that the legal connection time at EWR is 90 minutes, so your itinerary is not “legal”. http://www.flyerguide.com/Minimum_Connecting_Times_%28UA%29 . I would complain to the airline, and the DOT atwww.dot.gov/airconsumer. Since this was not a legal connection I would ask United for reimbursement for your expenses. Joel Joel J Smiler DVM Hotline Director www.flyersrights.org In response to ‘Class Dismissed‘: Hi! This is a very good story and I agree with you! I must say, I had the opportunity to fly first class a few times recently. It is not really a luxurious experience. It’s nice, but in truth, it is merely humane! What all flying should be. The air attendants were nicer but only marginally and not always. The leg room was BETTER but not amazing. There were no reclining/bed seats! Those I think are limited to specific air craft and all of them overseas flights. The bathrooms were closer, but no cleaner. At least there was food! But nothing gourmet, that’s for sure. It is a shame that coach has in effect become steerage. It is like a cattle call from security check point to boarding the plane to the hunt for overhead space to sitting on top of each other. I have come to accept that I’ll never do the travel I hoped to do in my later years because it is such an inhumane experience. I have no hope for improvement. Thank you for all you do to try to help the rest of us. It’s good to know you’re there fighting the good fight! SM Dear American, It saddens me to write, I was just subjected to a flight on an A320, with your “new” American. It was the (so far) single worst flying experience I have had with American. I felt like a sardine, a nuisance to the crew, something required to pay for fuel… the walk through the luxurious first and business class let me know that, as we were all shoved into the back of the plane. The distance from my face to the rear of the seat in front of me was equal to a coffin. and I felt I was in one. The clever rounding of all edges in design has eliminated any sense of space for those of us who are rank and file. There is no longer customer service, and the insult to the injury – I called to rebook my return on a 767 so I don’t vomit from claustrophobic panic on my return, and was told no matter what ticket I purchased now I must pay the 200 dollar change fee. Where is the airline I have been loyal to and loved for over twenty years? I have many friends who worked for American for years, captain, attendants, all of them quietly shaking their heads when I ask them what has happened. The best way to describe the “coach passenger” experience is to watch the people drowning in the locked steerage of the movie Titanic. That’s how you make us feel now. And I am sorry, and I miss my airline, and I will find another just for a change. I look forward to the demise of whatever business model this is, so I can once again travel on American. Best, NB Dear Senator Isakson, Thank you for making your e-mail address accessible. I have been involved with the Flyer’s Rights group minimally as I quit flying over thirteen years ago due to feeling like a cow in a dirty barn when I stepped on an airplane. Being a schoolteacher I couldn’t afford first class. Upon entering the Atlanta Airport the traffic police would harass drivers at the terminal trying to pick up or drop off passengers. Going through security even then was humiliating. That was nearing the time I retired from my professorship at UGA, so travel was becoming less important for me, even though I was frequently invited to lecture and conduct workshops around the country. Universities and museums do not reimburse first-class tickets so I merely declined invitations. I don’t understand why it’s taken the general population this long to demand change. It should be obvious to Congress that a growing number of voters are totally fed up with the results of de-regulation, re-definition of bribery ‘lobbying’ and the resulting economic melt-down that broke the backs of the working class and made the rich richer. So what do we get next? How about excessive and often fraudulent charges by phone companies, both the reorganized and strengthened AT&T monopoly, Verizon, Satellite TV and cable providers and then there are all the Googles and Apples and anything connected to internet providers, those that sell virtual data to the unemployed and the working class who have already paid for the infrastructure to deliver many times over. Beyond renting what we have already paid for are the new fees for billing. This all is leading to what is not going to be pretty. How much is spent on homeland security to protect the gated communities? That’s a really convoluted use of tax money, collected mostly from those that don’t live in one, while education is being under-funded. Charter schools for special people are being run by corporations paid with tax money. Most teachers took more courses in education than they did in the subject they are teaching. That can and should be fixed, but would end the apathy and ignorance in this country. Further, both the Democratic and Republican parties have divided the country, families and neighbors by blaming everything on the other party. That takes the heat off the corporations, who are becoming bolder every day with less service at more cost. Morality has been lost and replaced with greed. Can anyone stand up in Washington and fight for the future of all the children, not just the blessed few of the greed-eating pigs? I don’t personally know of one college graduate that has gotten a real job in the last five years. My daughter hasn’t and none of her friends, nor none of my friend’s children who have graduated from UGA have gotten jobs other than part-time at minimum wage. So, Senator Isakson, you have a great opportunity to give the citizens hope that there are still honest and good people making important decisions in this country. Even faking it better would be helpful. Please read this article as this is just the beginning of real dissent in our country. Sincerely, GN Re. the new Transparent Airfares Bill Introduced in the House: By allowing the “base price” to be advertised instead of the “all in price” consumers will no longer be able to easily price shop for air transportation, as taxes, surcharges and fees added onto the base fare amount to 20% to 200% of so called base airfares. This bill is really the Air transportation Cost Concealment and Deception bill. Consumers can and should be able to see all detail of air transportation charges, which they can now, but the consumer primarily wants to know their all-in expense rather than the breakdown of how the expense is divided between airlines, government and others. Paul Hudson President FlyersRights.org 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. or FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road Sarasota, FL 34233 We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.