DOT Imposes Tarmac Delay Fines

New TSA Committee Provides More Security Theater

Lavatory Oxygen Removal Update

Help Us Launch Flyers Rights Education Fund

What Kate’s Saying

DOT Imposes Tarmac Delay Fines

Nearly 19 months after DOT implemented the Three-Hour Tarmac Rule, the Department has fined regional carrier American Eagle $900,000 Monday in the first enforcement of a regulation aimed at curbing airport ground delays that strand passengers on planes for hours, often without food, water or working toilets.

The penalty against American Eagle, a unit of American Airlines parent AMR Corp,American Eagle Logoimposed for extended tarmac delays affecting more than 600 people on 15 flights last May in Chicago, is also one of the largest consumer protection fines ever levied by the U.S. Transportation Department. As part of a settlement with regulators, American Eagle was mandated by DOT to refrain from future violations of the Three-Hour Rule, and was instructed to use more than a quarter of the fine to compensate passengers.

In a November 14th press release, Kate said, “We fought for the tarmac rule to protect passengers and we are grateful to Secretary Ray LaHood and the DOT for meaningful enforcement of the rule, and the DOT did the right thing mandating that the passengers receive 25% of the fines as compensation for their losses.”

The Snowtober Strandings, which left hundreds sitting for hours on the tarmac at Bradley Field in Hartford, CT, brought congressional pressure on DOT to exercise the Tarmac Rule. Senators Boxer and Snowe, longtime supporters of airline passenger rights, urged DOT to move forward with penalties for violations of the rule. DOT says that this case has been under investigation for some time, and the senators’ letter did not influence the timing of the fine imposition.

American Eagle’s parent company claimed that the May delays were due to weather. FlyersRights maintains that American Eagle’ should never have loaded aircraft when they knew, or should have known, that weather conditions virtually assured lengthy delays and cancellations. As Kate said, we applaud the DOT’s forceful action.

New TSA Committee Provides More Security Theater

We reported last August on TSA’s resurrection of their Aviation Security Advisory Committee. Created by the FAA in the wake of the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy, the committee was to “develop recommendations for the improvement of methods, equipment, and procedures to improve civil aviation security.” When TSA was formed after 9/11, responsibility for civil aviation security was transferred to that agency. The committee operated under the TSA until late 2006, when it was discontinued.

In July, the TSA decided to reestablish the committee. They promised to includeTSA Funny Logoaviation consumer advocates in that body’s makeup. We wrote them at that time, proposing Kate as the ideal consumer advocate for the panel. Dean Walter of TSA responded that no vacancies were available, but would not tell us who was filling the position.

On November 7th TSA finally published the membership l
. The press release assures us that “The Aviation Security Advisory Committee plays a vital role in helping TSA continuously enhance our ability to ensure the security of the traveling public.” If that’s so, then we would expect the committee to include strong voices to represent that traveling public. Does it? Here’s the breakdown:

Aviation Security Advisory Committee

Rosemary Dillard, National Air Disaster Alliance

Eric Thacker, Air Transport Association

Glenn Johnson, Victims of Pan Am Flight 103

Kenneth J. Dunlap, North America International Air Transport Association

Duane McGray, Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network

Liam R. Connolly, Regional Airline Association

Michael McCormick, Global Business Travel Association

Timothy H. Shaw, National Air Carrier Association

·Richard Macomber, National Industrial Transportation League

Bill Cason, Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations

Michael A. Cintron, International Airline Passengers Association

Chris Witkowski, Association of Flight Attendants

Michael France, National Air Transportation Association

Paul Feldman, General Aviation Manufacturers Association

Thomas A. Zecha, Jr., Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Dan Johnson, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association

Douglas Carr, National Business Aviation Association

Leslie L. Riegle, Aerospace Industries Association

Paula Hochstetler, Airport Consultants Council

John Hazlet, Jr., Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association

James I. Briggs, Jr., Airports Council International – North America

· Brandon Fried, Airforwarders Association

Carter Morris, Jr., American Association of Airport Executives

National Safety Coordinator, Airline Pilots Association

Look at the composition. Of the 24 members, over one-half represent the air travel industry (airlines, airports, air cargo, aircrews, and airport law enforcement), four represent general aviation (owners and pilots, business aviation, and general aviation manufacturers), one speaks for aerospace manufacturers, and one for those who arrange travel for businesses.

Three appear to be passenger-related, but the International Airline Passengers Association is actually a fee-based organization that also sells various kinds of flight insurance. The other two, National Air Disaster Alliance and Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, have done fine work. In fact, FlyersRights board member Paul Hudson, a major force in the pursuit of justice for the Pan Am 103 victims, was co-founder of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 in addition to founding and serving as Executive Director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project. Both organizations focus on a small constituency-victims of air tragedies.

In short, there is no representative on the committee who can or will speak to your issues as an informed air traveler. FlyersRights’ members demand air travel security that is effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently applied. We see current equipment and procedures for the Security Theater they are, and want an end to the meaningless procedures that make us uncomfortable and vulnerable and significantly increase our time at the airport.

With 7/8 of the committee focused on something other than passenger issues and the remaining 1/8 narrowly focused, FlyersRights doubts that this new committee effort will result not in resolution of the issues we raise with the TSA. We fear that it will instead be remembered as another episode of Security Theater.

Lavatory Oxygen Removal Update

In March of 2011, MSNBC, among others, reported that the FAA had quietly ordered the removal of oxygen generators from aircraft lavatory oxygen mask systems because of an unspecified security concern. At that time, we noted that by taking that action, the FAA was betting that there would be no decompressions with passengers in the lavatory.

Pax wit<br />
h O2 masksDo you think the absence of emergency oxygen in aircraft lavatories is an important piece of safety information for airline passengers? Is it at least as important as assuring that you can, in fact, operate a seat belt?

The FAA addressed notification in a spin-control press releasefollowing public disclosure of their covert removal of lavatory oxygen. They suggested the following:

The FAA is asking operators to reinforce crew emergency procedures to make it a priority to check whether the lavatory is occupied following any event where oxygen masks are deployed in the cabin. Operators may also choose to include additional instructions on the briefing cards, on placards in the lavatory or during the verbal passenger safety briefing.

We’d like to hear from you on the notification issue. Have you ever heard lavatory oxygen mentioned in the flight attendant’s safety briefing? Have you seen mention of this critical issue in the briefing cards in the seat pockets or noticed a placard in the lavatory? If you have, please drop a note

Help Us Launch the Flyers Rights Education Fund

The Flyers Rights Education Fund is the education and service arm of our organization. Approved by the IRS in June, 2011, the Fund gives you a way tocontribute to our airline passenger rights efforts through a tax-deductible vehicle. We now support many of our efforts through The Fund:

  • Our free, 24/7 Hotline
  • Mass mailings unrelated to political action requests
  • Press releases related to educational efforts on behalf of airline passenger rights

FREF LogoNow we have an exciting new way for you to leverage your tax-deductible contributions to the Fund. Paul Hudson, a member of our Board of Directors andExecutive Director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP), has pooled his personal resources with those of ACAP and friends of our longtime supporter, Ralph Nader, to pledge a matching-gift contribution of $15,000 to Flyers Rights Education Fund.

Paul’s generous pledge gives you an opportunity to truly leverage your contributions to the Fund. His coalition will match, dollar for dollar, yourdonations to the Flyers Rights Education Fund, up to the $15,000 pledge!

But you must act now! We must achieve this goal by the end of the year. Please go to the Flyers Rights Education Fund donation page now and give what you can. The coalition’s generous offer expires at midnight, December 31, 2011. We must answer the coalition’s challenge and meet their contribution goal by the end of the year.

Remember, each and every dollar you contribute during this short window will have a double impact on advancing the cause of airline passenger rights.

Help us stay in the fight! Kate’s remarkable responses to Snowtober, in so many national forums, would not have been possible without your generous support. You know that her family can no longer subsidize the effort-without your help, the premier voice of airline passenger rights in America will be stilled.

What Kate’s Saying

The American Eagle fine story was just breaking at newsletter press time, and Kate was engulfed by the media storm that always erupts when an airline passenger rights issue makes the national news. We’ll share links to many of those interviews next week.

Did TSA Committee Keep Advocates From Boarding?

5 Ways To Avoid the Flightmare Before Thanksgiving


American Eagle fined for tarmac delays

KCBS (mp3 file)