Race To The Bottom
February 3, 2015
The fight for passengers has now moved to the cabin interior. 
luggage tags mean big dollar signs to the airlines
(Image: RunwayGirlNetwork)
This is what a 10-abreast 777 cattle car looks like. 
One of the world’s biggest selling models, the 777 was designed for nine seats per row, rather than 10. 
In 2010, just 15% of 777s delivered to airlines could seat 10 abreast. In 2012, that leapt to 69%.  
Time for government to legislate minimum comfort standards for civilian passengers. It should not become an option or profit issue. 
JetBlue broke many hearts last fall when it announced it would cut legroom and charge for bags.

Last week focused on JetBlue’s race to the bottom with the big three: Delta, United and American. 
The article said the airlines have figured out there’s no money in providing passengers with honest, easy-to-follow pricing and free checked bags.
“Leaving money on the table”- probably the most overused catchphrase today -is the bane of Wall Street which admonishes airlines not to pass up easy money-making fees for luggage and legroom.
Ironically, JetBlue’s motto used to be, “bringing humanity back to air travel”.

The move makes JetBlue the latest airline to succumb to Wall Street’s pressure to boost profits (only $401 million last year) with fees for checked baggage, food, and drinks, that used to be included in the base fare. 
“The base fare has been stripped down steadily toward just being a butt in the seat and access to the bathroom and a glass of water,” said Vinay Bhaskara, senior business analyst for Airways News to YahooTravel. 
And with airlines making unprecedented riches – last year $12.7 billion in net profits, up from $98 million in 2012 – JetBlue has decided it can no longer leave that kind of “money on the table”. 
But baggage fees are so 2014. So JetBlue is adding new layers of complexity with pricing tiers and seating classes in a way that can make it even more expensive for you to fly.
A Blitzkrieg of Fees Pelting Consumers
You begin to wonder after awhile if there’s any new or ingenious way the airlines won’t find to increase their profits. ‘Consumer obfuscation’ is the new black for airlines, using these complicated ‘fare family’ schemes. 
Soon JetBlue will unveil a three-tiered pricing scheme that will take effect in the second quarter of this year, just in time for Spring Break.
Under the first tier, fliers will be charged for any and all checked bags. Fliers who pay extra for the middle level will get one free checked bag. And those who get the most expensive fare will get two free checked bags.
Airways News’ Bhaskara says, “That’s just another way for the airlines to extract even more money out of their customers.” 
SmarterTravel recaps everything we know about JetBlue’s new fees:
  • New fee amounts and fare types will be unveiled in the second quarter of 2015
  • There will be three “fare families” so flyers choose ‘which services they would like and which they don’t need’
  • The new fare structure is already being tested, but it’s unclear in which markets or how
  • JetBlue expects to make $200 million in fees annually by 2017. That’s $200 million per year.
  • Prices for the airline’s Even More Space seats, expedited security, and priority boarding will also be changing
  • Say farewell to legroom, with thinner cushions and 15 more seats planned on its A320s
And here’s what we don’t know:
  • The actual bag fees
  • The new fare families’ pricing
  • An official start date for both (although again, sounds like Q2-just in time for your spring break getaway!)
  • Whether base prices on the cheapest tickets are expected to rise
  • If there are any more plans to reduce legroom on other aircraft
Airbus’ patented saddle seats
Just remember, its not about you, your comfort or your opinion. Its about profit. You can expect the industry to trend toward higher prices, less service, more upcharges and less legroom.

One airline patented restraints to allow passengers to basically stand, so that they could pack more fare payers into the cabin.

If there has ever been and industry in need of government oversight, it is aviation.

FlyersRights’ president, Paul Hudson, says “This why we need a moratorium on seat space reductions now.” 

Southwest Airlines:  
Profit Before Safety? 
(Exerpted from ETN Global NewsWall St. Journal)

Does Southwest Airlines care so much about on-time performance and having the reputation of a profitable carrier that it would overlook cracks in the fuselage? Would the airline go so far to punish its own mechanics if they reported this or other safety issues?
The January 21, 2015 “settlement” of this recent law suit is scary evidence that could suggest a “maybe” answer to that question, and indicates an industry-wide problem.
There is a history of questionable incidents on Southwest Airlines that eTN has been reporting about for some time. In March of 2008, the FAA accused Southwest Airlines of falsifying safety reports. In June of 2009, mechanics raised alarm for outsourcing major maintenance work to El Salvador. In August 2009, the airline grounded 46 planes.
In April 2011, Southwest Airlines grounded 81 planes for inspection following an incident in which one of its flights was forced to make an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Arizona, after a 3-foot hole tore open in the fuselage of the plane. No one got hurt so far, but apparently Southwest Airlines did not learn anything from this incident.
On July 2, 2014, Southwest Airlines mechanic Charles Hall performed maintenance on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft and discovered two cracks in the aircraft fuselage and documented them. Discovery of these cracks resulted in the aircraft being removed from service to be repaired.
Instead of commending the mechanic, Southwest Airlines issued a “Letter of Instruction” advising Charles Hall that he had acted outside the scope of his work. This letter said: “Please be aware that any further violation may result in further disciplinary action.”
In addition to the lawsuit, seven American mechanics – six from Chicago and one from Dallas – filed two federal whistleblower complaints against their airline alleging that managers pressured the employees to breach federal rules on aircraft maintenance related to wing cracks and inspections for suspected lightning strikes.
The whistleblower complaints claim the company and managers intimidated union representatives from aiding the FAA investigations into the matter claiming it could complicate the company’s merger integration with U.S. Airways.
The judge in the Southwest case stated that the warning letter had the effect of intimidating the mechanic and dissuading other Southwest Airlines mechanics from reporting the discovery of cracks, abnormalities, or defects out of fear of reprisal discipline. 

The case was ultimately settled in a January 16 agreement.
Southwest Airlines agreed to pay Mr. Hall compensation for reasonable attorney fees and expenses, and pay US$35,000 within 10 days of final approval of the agreement.
A Dark Reflection – movie trailer

Last week, Captain Tristan Loraine, former British Airways pilot received the British Citizen Award in recognition of his 14 years of global work on the issue of contaminated air on aircraft.

He and fellow medically-retired air crew spent years trying to expose what they believed was one of the great ­global scandals of our times: that the air on passenger jets is not always safe.

On 27th February 2015, Tristan Loraine’s film ‘A Dark Reflection’; an investigative feature film on the issue of contaminated air will be released into UK cinemas.  
Laugh of the Week:
So Instead Of Cleaning The Air… Airlines Use “Fragrances”
Beyoncé’s latest perfume is called Rise, “the scent of empowerment.” Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams and Jennifer Aniston have signature scents, too. So does Delta Air Lines.
Delta’s offering is Calm, an eau d’aeroport that it sprays in airplane cabins and infuses in the hot towels it gives out in premium classes. It has been spreading Calm for about two years, joining a handful of other carriers vying for olfactory distinction by developing their own individualized odors.  
The fragrant fliers include United Continental Holdings , Turkish Airlines and Air Canada’s low-cost rouge operation. Spain’s Iberia is close to launching its own aroma, and Alaska Airlines is working on one.

Given the grind that air travel has become for millions of people, with ever smaller seats and endless fees, the moves by airlines could be likened to putting perfume on a flying pig. (Read more: WSJ).

(thanks to Ed Mierzwinski, USPIRG for the tip!)
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