Friends In High Places
Class Warfare in the Sky

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tim Enthoven, NYT
The contrasts between coach, business class, and first class have been there for decades. That’s nothing new.
But today, the difference is opulence versus steerage.
In an op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times journalist James Atlas says statusization – to coin a useful term – is ubiquitous, no matter what your altitude.
The basic premise is that the spread between first class and economy travel has never been greater, and economy cabin travel is far, far worse today than any any point in history.
Nowadays, outrageous fares are required to pay for comfortable travel, or suffer the misery of coach class.


Stratification needs to have limits for public safety, convenience
and comfort, said FlyersRights’ president, Paul Hudson.”Steerage class and slave ships were highly profitable for ship owners, and actually subsidized high class accommodations,” Hudson points out.

Airlines should not be allowed to follow those pathways.
The Great Divide at Airport Security
The class struggle begins on the ground, at the security line.
Why is it that the airlines can prioritize the delivery of public services based upon how much one pays them? Why should someone with a first-class seat be allowed to bypass everyone else when waiting to go through airport security, run by a government agency and paid for with tax dollars?
The long lines exist because TSA refuses to devote sufficient resources to reduce or eliminate such lines. How difficult would it be to add more machines and employees during the rush?But TSA doesn’t, and thus, the demand is created, and the ability for someone to make money by selling access to a shorter line.


“The fees paid for security are flat fees not percentage charges based on ticket price, so everyone is paying the same,” says Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.  “Therefore if higher end ticket holders get better service without higher fees, they are effectively being subsidized by economy passengers.”
“The Trusted Traveler program fees should be nominal because it saves TSA security expenses and should improve security in theory,” Hudson says.
Sure, airlines should be able to reward their best customers. But, not at the expense of everyone else.
Standards Needed for Coach Seating
It’s not always about comfort, it’s also about safety. Too many seats in a

cramped economy cabin and you have problems trying to exit the plane in an emergency. Even the exit rows have dangerously tight seat pitch.

If there is inadequate spacing between seats, this creates not only an uncomfortable and unhealthy situation for passengers, but also a potentially unsafe environment in the event of an emergency evacuation.

If the airline seat does not have enough space in front of you for your femur, it is simply unsafe to travel in.

This sort of problem invites re-regulation to establish standards. Why not set limits for seats as well as for on-time performance?
In the crash landing at SFO, the injured mostly had back injuries caused by the hard impact with the ground. Could the passengers prepare for a crash landing, as shown on the safety card?Perhaps not. One of the illustrations shows a man grasping the top of the chair in front of him with hands crossed as a cradle for his head such that
his back was totally unsupported between head and hips. Anyone in that position during that crash could now have a broken back and possibly be a paraplegic.

It may be that one outcome of this crash will be that the airlines will be ordered to increase the chair spacing such that all passengers can put their heads

between their legs, as illustrated in the safety card. 
We need to fix our airline services. We can and we must!
Airlines Reward Best Customers At Expense Of Everyone Else

Only a few of these passengers got flights out of SFO following the Asiana crash, depending on how many miles they fly and their “value” to the airline.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


After the Asiana crash, hundreds of flights were canceled, stranding thousands of travelers at airports across the country.
NPR did a piece on the injustice passengers faced when their flights were cancelled or overbooked.
How the airlines handled all those stranded travelers during a time of crisis offers a revealing window into how they view their passengers.
The fate of each traveler depended almost entirely on their “status” or value with the airline, not how far they have come or how long they have been trying to get home.
Following an accident or when bad weather closes an airport, available seats are doled out based on a customer’s calculated status, not how long they have been waiting to get home.  A better solution would be to treat everyone the same and try to help everyone equally.
Vacationers who buy a cheap airline ticket once or twice a year are almost worthless to an airline.
It’s the frequent business travelers that get special attention. These travelers produce tens of thousands of dollars a year in profits for an airline, and will bump a confirmed low-value passenger off a crowded flight.
Bottom line, if you are confirmed on a flight, you should have a contract to fly.  You have paid your fare and confirmed your seat.  So if you show up to the flight on time, you should have the right to exercise that contract and take that seat.

Airport Settles With Fourth Amendment Flasher

Aaron Tobey at the time of his arrest in Dec. 2010
A lawsuit filed by a man who was handcuffed and detained for nearly 90 minutes at the Richmond International Airport in Virginia by TSA because he removed his shirt to display the text of the Fourth Amendment to protest security procedures, has been settled.

Aaron Tobey of Charlottesville had claimed airport police and TSA officers violated his free-speech rights.

Tobey sued the TSA and the airport, and following a year and a half of legal proceedings, the organizations have now settled.  Richmond’s airport security personnel is being forced to brush up on American Government 101.
Officials announced this week that their security officers underwent a special two-hour training course on the First and Fourth Amendment rights of passengers as a part of a settlement with Mr. Tobey.

Read More:

Exploiting Your Fear
Do you dread the middle seat?  Hate sitting in the rear row with no recline?

“font-size: 11pt;”>

The airlines are well aware of this and are taking advantage of you when you choose a seat after buying your ticket.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney, airlines create an “artificial shortage” in seats so that you will shell out for a better one.
He points to an example where two weeks before a scheduled departure of an AA flight from Los Angeles to New York, the seat map showed only two middle seats in the back of the airplane available, plus 11 Preferred seats-regular coach seats toward the front without extra legroom-available for a $56.44 fee.
One week before the flight,  the seat map for non-elites showed only one available middle seat in the back of plane, plus the same 11 Preferred seats at $56.44 each. But elite-level customers saw a total of 41 of 128 coach seats empty.
“Those seats show up on seat maps as occupied for customers without elite status, leading them to conclude seats are scarce. This prompts a portion of
them to pony up,” says McCartney.
What to do?  McCartney says pick seats online 24 hours before departure. If you still don’t have a seat, get to the airport early and talk to someone at the ticket counter.
Last week we misidentified the number of crashes Asiana Airlines has experienced. The recent July 6, 2013 crash was the airline’s third fatal accident and the second involving passengers since the company began operations in 1988.
Two crew members were killed in July 2011 when a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft crashed into the East China Sea after a fire on the main cargo deck.
In July 1993, an Asiana Boeing 737 on route from Seoul in bad weather flew into a hillside on its approach to Mokpo, the southern South Korean city, killing 64 passengers and four crew members.
FlyersRights‘ Partners:
  • Flybag ™ – the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you’ll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights
  • Wear FlyersRights armor to the airport.
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights President
Kate with FRO Logo
Kate Hanni, FlyersRights Founder
Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, 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 support!