December 2, 2014 | Kendall Creighton When Pigs Fly What a week it was! The Thanksgiving holiday was a zoo for air travelers. Whether you pigged out or were flying with pigs, it was a beastly scene in the skies. Cattle Class 2.0 A pig was ordered off a U.S. Airways plane at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut last Wednesday after crewmembers determined the “emotional support” animal had become disruptive. One of the top emailed stories of the New York Times over the weekend was a piece by Frank Bruni on the uncivilized state of air travel today. He says there are few better showcases of Americans’ worst impulses than a 757 bound from New York to Los Angeles. A mile-high mirror of pettiness, selfishness, disconnection from one another and increasing demarcation of castes. But it’s too easy it is to blame the victims. It’s easy to overlook that aircraft engineers are advancing the art of sardine-can density in coach. It’s easy to forget that airline accountants now follow the Walmart principle: Stack ’em high and sell ’em low. Last week, Clive Irving in The Daily Beast described airlines’ sophisticated, inch-by-inch stratagems to “engineer you out of room”. Aircraft that were originally produced with 160 seats, such as the Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, favorites of Southwest and Frontier with their single-aisles and one-class cabins, have now been ‘refitted‘ to have over 200 seats. Toby Lewis, 34, and her two boys, Casey, 12, and Ian, 10, from Ann Arbor, wait in line at the Delta counter at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on November 26, 2014. (Photo: Charles V. Tines, The Detroit News) For the first time, these single-aisle airliners will have as many seats as the much larger twin-aisle airplanes, like the Boeing 767. The rich and poor gap is getting wider, on the plane as in the economy, says Bruni. Financially, every flight is a death by a dozen cuts. There’s the baggage fee, the meal fee, the wireless fee. All the base price gets you is a perch that’s tighter than ever and getting tighter still. But we don’t recall the flying public clamoring for tight seats and more junk fees for the illusion of a lower ticket price. The Daily Beast says the airlines have indoctrinated us to accept a “steerage complex.” We are being conditioned to believe that in exchange for a bargain, we have no right to expect comfort in return. It’s hard to think of a better example of the law of diminished expectations in action than coach class – and once an expectation is diminished it will never recover. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, there’s the increasingly improved first-class. On the same planes where you need Knee Defenders™, the first-class travelers are enjoying “private suites” and inflight showers. On Abu Dhabi’s airline, Etihad, they’re aiming even higher. Its apartment-like suites on the A380 in a section called The Residence have three rooms: sitting room, dining room and bedroom and they come with a butler, chef, and shower. (Breakfast is served by the butler.) Depending on the length of the flight, these suites can cost as much as $43,000 for two people. Meanwhile, back in the USA Denise Whitaker, KOMO 4 We hope you avoided Chicago on Sunday. What a way to start the day, with a mile-long TSA security line. KOMO reporter Denise Whitaker mapped the line to cover 1.2 miles. The Chicago Sun-Times videoed it. America’s hyper fixation on security seems to have turned the flying experience into a prison camp, with TSA performing Kabuki Theater for the profit of former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. The Land of the Lost Shopping for clothes at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, AL Last week there was a cheery, holiday story in The New York Times on passengers’ unclaimed luggage winding up on the shelves of a retail store in Alabama. Semi tractor-trailers arrive daily to drop off luggage. Absent in the article is that the airlines are selling your bags and the contents after a short holding period and keep the proceeds. FlyersRights disagrees with this practice. The airlines are not required to use readily available methods to return property to its rightful owner and they generally dispute the great majority of lost baggage claims meaning passengers have no practical means of redress. Airlines are the only large private holder of other persons’ property that’s exempt from the Uniform Abandoned Property Law used by nearly all states. At common law, abandoned property is forfeited to the state, and airlines would have unlimited strict liability for lost or damaged property placed in their custody. Airlines have negotiated their liability capped by law at $3,000 for domestic flights and $1650 for international flights with short claim periods. The Airlines should be required to follow the standards of the Uniform Abandoned Property Act providing for efforts to return unclaimed baggage to its rightful owner, and if that fails after 90 days selling property at auction with proceeds going to a Lost Baggage Fund, to be used to satisfy lost/stolen property claims, fund consumer protection services by nonprofit organizations and for arbitration services for disputed lost baggage claims. Report on Boeing 787 Battery Flaws Finds Lapses at Multiple Points The damaged battery case from a fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Logan International Airport in Boston in January 2013. Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images By JAD MOUAWAD- NYT Flaws in manufacturing, insufficient testing and a poor understanding of an innovative battery all contributed to the grounding of Boeing’s 787 fleet last year after a fire in a jet at Boston’s airport and another incident in Japan, according to a report released Monday by regulators. The report, by the National Transportation Safety Board, assigned in the starkest terms yet the blame for the 787’s battery problems. The board found a wide range of failings among manufacturers and regulators. The battery’s maker, GS Yuasa of Japan, used manufacturing methods that could introduce potential defects but whose inspection methods failed to detect the problem, the board found. The NTSB’s findings directly conflict with the FAA’s own internal study released in March, which said the agency had “effective processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after certification.” In May, the FAA cleared the 787 to fly far over the ocean, up to 5½ hours away from the nearest emergency landing site. Compared to conventional batteries, the nature and construction of lithium-ion batteries makes them far more susceptible to microscopic flaws which can cause internal short circuits and thermal runaway. When these events occur, the batteries begin to produce their own oxygen internally, which feeds a fire. Should such an event occur during flight, the result could be catastrophic. So far, the lithium-ion battery failures have shown that the estimates of their predicted service life were absolutely wrong. Boeing had initially reported that a battery cell might fail in one out of 10 million flight hours. Instead, by the time the two episodes happened, the 787 fleet in service had logged fewer than 52,000 hours, according to the safety board. Airbus has elected not to use these types of batteries. Your Letters Dear FlyersRights: A few comments on your efforts… First, let me say “Thank You” for your pursuit of establishing basic flyer’s rights for the travelling public in America. I know you are fighting an uphill battle and your efforts are appreciated. I am an “infrequent” flyer, but have flown enough over the years to have experienced many of the unpleasantries of air transportation. Lost luggage, delays, cancellations, over-bookings, hidden fees, high prices, you name it… For me, many of the minor inconveniences can be chalked up to a very challenging business trying to operate at a profit and I don’t get too worked up about many of those “difficulties”. I get the whole picture and don’t get bent out of shape when there are short delays, full planes, busy airports, waits for bags, etc. Things change though when it comes to major things. Being held hostage on a plane for hours on end, being stuffed into a seat with no room to move, flights being delayed for hours or cancelled for no apparent reason and getting no real answers from airline staff, and being charged extra for everything under the sun even the things that should be included in every ticket like a bag going along with you. So please, keep up the good work. My suggestion is that you focus as much as possible on the most important issues though. There needs to be a minimum standard on seat pitch and room for each passenger. This is a safety issue. There needs to be a limit on just how long a flight can be stuck on the tarmac or runway before passengers need to be allowed to disembark. Again, a safety issue but also a basic human rights issue. And ticket pricing should be transparent and easily compared. This is a “truth in advertising” issue. I don’t consider airlines “bad guys” and really want them to be successful and profitable. But I want to be treated fairly when I travel and the trends have been in the wrong direction. I do not travel by air unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s no longer a big advantage and I am “way” more comfortable traveling by auto than by air since I can’t really afford 1st class… Anyway, I wanted to let you know that your effort is appreciated and I hope successful in getting some relief for the average traveler. All the best, -SD (In response to last week’s Letter🙂 Dear FlyersRights: GJ’s short-sighted view of what makes a business successful is too typical, and unfortunate. Businesses that view their only responsibility as to their shareholders (which of course include their executives, in spades) are missing the fact that those businesses that also consider their customers and their employees as important usually succeed better and longer. GJ’s business model is undoubtedly (and regrettably) that of the American airline industry, but one wonders how much MORE successful a more holistic approach would be for them – and us, as consumers. -CC Dear FlyersRights: Request that I can “share” email that great response to why capitalist airline industry needs you and consumer advocates, laws, regulations, etc. (The capitalist jerkoff). Thanks!! -DG Dear FlyersRights, Who is this dipstick who dares to insult your newsletter? If he’s receiving it, doesn’t that mean he has donated to your organization, and would therefore know exactly what you do? We’ve got people burning down cities, kids killing kids, and countless other issues which are tearing this country apart. How petty of GJ to write such mindless criticism of a grassroots group which is actually trying to do some good for other humans. Seriously, the nerve of some people. It simply breaks my heart. -RR Dear Kendall, You have the patience of a saint. Sometimes I just can’t understand. Thank you very much for what you do, including caring about the workers as well as us flyers. I made a donation today. Happy Thanksgiving. -CS Flashback: Business Class in the 1970s! Unlike the closely arranged seats of today, Business Class of the ’70s resembled a lounge. Will we ever get these days back? See more: Newslinq Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday! WHAT IS GIVING TUESDAY? We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. We’ve come a long way, thanks to your support of FlyersRights! Thank you. Kate Hanni, founder with Paul Hudson, President Sign our FlyersRights Petition for a Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0!