October 1, 2013 | Kendall Creighton Take This Plane And Shove It It Ain’t Working Here No More Tuesday, October 1, 2013 Norwegian Air has grounded a 787 Dreamliner and demanded Boeing repair the new aircraft. Norwegian Air and LOT Polish Airlines are fed up with the Dreamliner Nightmare. Over the weekend Norwegian Air pulled its brand new Dreamliner out of service and demanded Boeing repair the plane after repeated breakdowns. Norwegian Air CEO Bjorn Kjos has issued an apology to its customers. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the delays and cancellations that have occurred because of technical problems with the Dreamliners are unacceptable and “just so bad.” LOT Polish Airlines SA, which currently operates five Boeing Co. Dreamliners, reported daily losses of $50,000 from the numerous groundings, going back to when its first plane was stranded in Chicago after the inaugural flight. Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg At the same time, LOT Polish Airlines gave Boeing a three month ultimatum and is seeking $30 million in compensation over faults with its 787 aircraft or face court action, the company’s chairman told a newspaper last Thursday. The last straw for LOT was last Wednesday when the airline was forced to ground all five of its new Dreamliners after discovering low-pressure fuel filters were not in place on the engines of two of the planes. The airlineblamed Boeing for the problem. Like an Accident Waiting to Happen This all smells like a ticking time bomb. Boeing was the last great hope of manufacturing in America, and now they’ve completely ruined the image of American manufacturing with this Lemonliner. Perhaps air carriers can refer to their state’s Lemon Law when dealing with Boeing? The FIAT car brand is sometimes referred to as: Fix It Again Tony. Similarly, many car enthusiasts joke that certain sports cars from certain manufacturers should be followed by a repair truck and mechanic. Perhaps Boeing should provide backup planes to follow each and every 787 flight to make sure it flies on time, without mechanical failure or incident. This looks bad for the Dreamliner (marketing must hate that name by now), and yet some are still protective of Boeing, arguing that the 787 is a whole new design with a lot of innovation, and some problems should be expected. This is no excuse whatsoever. The 787 has been in service for two years now and these problems should not be expected…or tolerated! We’re talking about one of the most techologically advanced aircraft in the world. It should have been ready to fly on delivery, not plagued by a raft of potentially serious faults and oversights that have forced groundings. Boeing delivered a faulty product that cost its customers millions. What are we waiting for? A plane to drop from the sky? Fix the damn thing for good. Government Shutdown: Thousands of Airline Safety Inspectors Sent Home(Excerpt from A.P.) The FAA is furloughing nearly 3,000 inspectors at the heart of the agency’s safety operations because of Congress’ federal budget impasse. The inspectors check to make sure airlines are maintaining their planes safely, conduct inspections at airports of planes and pilots, and visit domestic and foreign repair stations where airlines send planes for major overhauls, among other safety jobs. Mike Perrone, the union’s national president, said he is “outraged that the FAA would consider aviation safety inspectors as playing anything but a pivotal role in protecting the safety of the American public. Furloughing this critical workforce is neither in the best interest of the economy nor the oversight of this country’s aviation system.” FAA spokeswoman Kristie Greco declined to confirm the inspector furloughs. She noted that nearly 2,500 safety office personnel will be furloughed, but they may be called back to work incrementally over the next two weeks. “Many employees will be on call and ready to return to work if necessary,” she said. Read More: GlobalNews Letters to FlyersRights! Question: All you do is put out negative news about flying. Not all airlines are horrible. They are in business to make a buck so they are going to charge what they can. You have the freedom choose which company to do business with. Competition is a good thing. Some events, such as weather and mechanical issues, are beyond their control. I live in Alaska and have a second home in Arizona and I vacation in Hawaii so I fly at least six times a year. I fly Alaska Air because I have found them to be competitive in price and they offer good service. They have a 20 minute baggage guarantee and they usually beat that by half. Alaskans who join the (free) 49er Club get two free bags on flights to, from or within Alaska. When I have had a problem with the airline, which has been rare, they make it right. They have customer service people that really want you to be satisfied. I appreciate your support of the flying public and bringing problems to the attention of the government but how about saying something positive when an airline does a good job. Flying is safer than the drive to the airport so they have to be doing a lot of things right. E.R. Anchorage, Alaska Answer: Yes, I agree competition is a good thing and can improve service and lower prices. This was the theory of airline deregulation – that it would make things better than close government regulation. But when consolidation and deregulation reach the point that airlines or any necessary public service providers no longer have to compete, service invariably suffers and prices rise. If one of the four mega airlines (Delta, American/USAirways, United or Southwest) that will soon control 80 – 90% of domestic flights acquired Alaska Airlines, do you think your good experiences would continue? As for safety, technology together with safety regulation which was never deregulated has certainly made air travel safer than any time in history. Paul Hudson President FlyersRights.org Q. – I am outraged over the excessive fees charged as taxes, fees and surcharges on a ticket that cost $634.00USD. The extra that boosted the ticket cost to 950.20 – $316.20 in those fees. International surcharge $232. – for what? US Customs fee – $5.50 – for what? US Immigration fee – $7.00 – for what? US APHIS User fee – 5.00 – for what? UK Passenger Service Charge – $25.30 – for what? US Passenger facility charge – 4.50 – for what? 9/11 Security fee – $2.50 – for what? US Federal Transportation Tax – $34.40 – this has been a fixture for years and never seems to be used for Airport maintenance and improvements. Sincerely, J.F. A. – Fees are certainly out of control, both those imposed by airlines and governments. There should be plain language explanations and the US DOT, UK and EU need to take an especially hard look at UK and EU fees being imposed on transatlantic travel, as these costs are hurting the tourist and travel industry in Europe and the US which worldwide provides one ofevery 11 jobs. Paul Hudson President FlyersRights.org Q. – I know the airlines are charging us extra over the ticket, but what is wrong with it? If I go the the theater buy a couple of tickets to a show, I get a service charge even if I pick them up and a parking charge of $5 per ticket even if the theater has an open parking lot. Also, if I take my car in for service, I often get a shop fee added to the bill. So there are many businesses who charge extra fees to make revenue, so why not the airlines? I am just making the point even though I really don’t like it and think it is gouging. Out of curiosity, is Flyer’s Rights organization now operating out of Sarasota totally? M.B. Longboat Key, FL A. – Extra charges are making “air fares” unfair in two ways: by deceptively pretending the cost of air travel is less than it really is, and by imposing excessive fees that are far in excess of the service and constitute price gouging. And should the IATA unified personalized price quoting system be adopted, anonymous price shopping would become a thing of the past, as airlines could charge not fixed declared rates but prices based on the perceived wealth and motivation of the customer to travel. Banks must quote the Annual Percentage Rate on their interest rates including all fees and gimmicks. Gas stations are required to conspicuously post the cost per gallon so the customer can see it before he pulls in and fills up. And price gouging for gasoline and other necessities at times of storms or other emergencies is generally outlawed. The US DOT still has the broad mandate to prevent and prohibit “deceptive or unfair” airline practices. FRO now believes that this power needs to be exercised, lest the air travel industrybecomes a fee fire zone that leads to worse and worse abuses.” FlyersRights is truly a national organization with its administrative location in Sarasota, an office in Washington DC, and also a presence in San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, New York and Dallas. Paul Hudson President FlyersRights.org FlyersRights Congressional Update: FlyersRights has now briefed the staffs of the Senate and House Aviation Subcommittees as well as the Transportation Security Subcommittee on needed reforms. Meetings will continue over the next several weeks. Paul Hudson, FlyersRights’ President has also set forth FlyersRights’ priorities to the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee in September, and on October 8th will make a presentation to the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection. It is essential that FlyersRights members keep contacting their representatives in Congress to Ring their Bell for Airline Passenger Rights and ask that they meet with FlyersRights representatives in Washington or in their Districts. The following members of Congress have previously supported airline passenger rights legislation in some form and should be encouraged to do so again with FlyersRights support: (click on name to go to their website!) House of Representatives: Senate: Mike Thompson (CA) Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Mike Rogers (AL) Rand Paul (R-KY) Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) Susan Collins (R-ME) Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) Diane Feinstein (D-CA) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) George Miller (D-CA) Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) John Dingell (D-MI) Eliot Engel (D-NY) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) Keith Ellison (D-MN) Anna Eshoo (D-CA) Sam Farr (D-CA) Mike Honda (D-CA) Mike McIntyre (D-NC) Jim Moran (D-VA) Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Brad Sherman (D-CA) Lee Terry (R-NE) Ted Poe (R-TX) Dennis Ross (R-FL) Bill Posey (R-FL) John Duncan (R-TN) Steve Pearce (R-NM) Congress is facing many vexing, controversial issues in 2013. However, airline passenger rights are NOT among them. Passenger rights are popular, straight forward with no significant impact on the federal budget. They should be a no brainer for Congress members to support, particularly in the upcoming 2014 election year. The record of this Congress in enacting any significant legislation is one of the worst on record, as partisan bickering blocks nearly everything. Members of Congress are (and should be) nervous about facing voters with such a record. Fixing air travel problems could be a rare positive achievement in an otherwise bleak and paralyzed government scene. Congress now has approval ratings in single digits, lower than airlines, the TSA, and far below that of such perennial favorites as used car salesmen. A formal legislative program will be announced in November, prior to the holiday travel season. But the success of such citizen legislation is wholly dependent on Congress knowing, a) that it has wide public support, and b) that voters are watching. Only this can balance airline campaign checks and its usual unyielding opposition to all consumer protection and passenger rights, as well as blunt a renewed push by airlines to weaken or wipe out existing rights such as the 3 hour rule and the 24 hour cancel without penalty rule. Do not wait! No one else will do it for you if you do not. Pick up the phone TODAY and call your member of Congress and two Senators at 202-224-3121. Or write them a letter with a copy to us. This is much easier and less time consuming than getting through to an airline. Ask for a meeting in the next month with FlyersRights.org members and officers. You are their constituents, they work for you. Meetings can be in Washington or in their home state. FlyersRights has the expertise to back you up. Appointments can be coordinated or questions answered by emailing: Kendallc@FlyersRights.org This can be done, but only you can make it happen! Feds Investigate Asiana Response to SFO Crash (Excerpt from the A.P.) In this July 8, 2013 file photo, an unidentified family member of one of two Chinese students killed in a crash of an Asiana Airlines’ plane on Saturday, cries at the airline’s counter at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China. In the first investigation of its kind, federal transportation officials are reviewing whether Asiana Airlines failed to meet legal obligations to help the families of passengers after one of its planes crashed at San Francisco International Airport, killing three people. Under U.S. law, Asiana was required to provide a range of services to family members of the 291 passengers, from the prompt posting of a toll-free number to gather and distribute information, to providing transportation and lodging so family members can comfort injured loved ones. Photo: Eugene Hoshiko Federal transportation officials are investigating whether Asiana Airlines failed to meet legal obligations to help the families of passengers whose flight crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. Under U.S. law, Asiana was required to provide a range of services to family members of the 291 passengers. Among them: the prompt posting of a toll-free number to gather and distribute information, and providing transportation and lodging so family members could comfort injured loved ones. After the July 6 crash, problems with Asiana’s response were almost immediately apparent. A review by the AP of Asiana’s family assistance plan showed the airline did not meet several important assurances, including that it would keep its emergency contact information current and post a public information number within an hour. The first record AP found of a publicly circulated number was just over three hours after the crash, but that was to an automated Asiana reservations line. The following day, the airline posted a different number, which it then changed several days later. “Imagine the panic of a family member who realizes their loved one was on Asiana calling each hospital, calling the airport, calling anyone they can,” said Robert A. Jensen, CEO of Kenyon International Emergency Services, which has contracts with hundreds of airlines to help after a crash. Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley said that two hours after the crash, the agency contacted Asiana’s attorney, “reminding the carrier of its family assistance obligations, and in particular of the need for the required telephone line.” Airlines face up to a $27,500 penalty for each family assistance law violation. Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights is funded completely through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible. Thank you for your continued support!