Flying Higher

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


This week we’re looking backwards and forwards – recalling the past and planning the future in light of the grand opening of our Washington DC office.
FlyersRights Has Got Your Back
You’re traveling this summer, and the chances your flight will be delayed or cancelled is good, especially now that there are fewer airlines. The recent mergers means reduced service to cities, packed airlines, more difficulty rebooking flights, fewer alternatives, and with the unpredictability of summer storms, you have the potential for chaos.
For this reason, it’s good to to know what your rights are –your FlyersRights!
Attention, Airlines: This Is Your Passenger Speaking
Trapped on the Tarmac
Trapped on the Tarmac
We are responsible for this!
It all started on December 29, 2006 with 121 planes stranded. If not for our group, this change wouldn’t have happened.
We Did This!
2007 – The Coalition for Passenger Rights founded.
2008 – Big win with bumping compensation. DOT made several changes with the most important being a doubling of the maximum cash compensation to $400 for domestic flights and $800 for international flights.
2010 – This is big! FlyersRights gets the 3-Hour Tarmac Delay Rule passed. This made it illegal for planes to sit on the tarmac for over three hours, and international flights four hours.
2011 – Increase of bumping compensation to $650-$1300
International Flights will have to report data for
time on the tarmac.
Delta Flight 6499, SEVEN HOURS on the tarmac
Delta Flight 6499, 7 HOURS on tarmac
2012 – Disclosure of Taxes and Fees in Published Fares-
The DOT requires airlines to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, instead of simply putting asterisks with all the taxes and fees in the fine print. Airlines must also disclose baggage fees, though this can come in the form of a link to another Web page with the baggage fee information.
2012 – Change or Cancel the Ticket-
Our rule requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.
2012 – Route Changes-
DOT now requires airlines to give you prompt notification of delays, cancellations and route changes.
2012 – Schedule Changes-
Similar to the routing changes, if the airline changes your scheduled flight to a different time or day, you aren’t legally entitled to any compensation, only a refund of the ticket price you paid.
2012– Baggage Fee Coordination-
Airlines will be required to refun
d any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost.  Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners.
2012 – Compensation-
You are entitled to compensation equal to 400% of the fare to the next stopover, or if none, to the final ticketed destination. Compensation is capped at $1,300. Passengers traveling between points within the United States (including the territories and possessions) who are denied boarding involuntarily from an oversold flight are entitled to: (1) No compensation if the carrier offers alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the passenger’s destination or first stopover not later than one hour after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight; (2) 200% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $650, if the carrier offers alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the passenger’s destination or first stopover more than one hour but less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight; and (3) 400% of the fare to the passenger’s destination or first stopover, with a maximum of $1,300, if the carrier does not offer alternate transportation that is planned to arrive at the airport of the passenger’s destination or first stopover less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the passenger’s original flight.
However, we have much work to do now because the abuse of passengers by the airlines continues every single day.
New Staff at FlyersRights!
Working in our DC office, drafting FlyersRights legislation and securing sponsors for our proposals will be:
Briana Carlson
American University
Juris Doctor candidate, Washington College of Law
BA Peace Studies, Sociology, Chapman UniversityAndrew Appelbaum
Georgetown University Law Center, Juris Doctor candidate
American University
BS in Economics and BA in Political Science

Your Letters!
Dear FlyersRights:

I flew Spirit Air on which of course you can only take one personal item onboard since last year sometime. Poor women…purse or laptop???  Last week I sat waiting for my flight and watched 2 full flights both Spirit board.  The staff totally ignored all the oversized and excessive bags at that point were a $100.00 to carry on.  But nobody paid. (LAX) These people must have had their entire trip of clothing with them.  I need an extra bag for Medications because by law you must have your script bottles with you, which I have many.  I can not take a chance of lost luggage or stolen items.
Spirit has really put people between a rock and a hard spot.  I watched an elderly lady pay an extra $100.00 at the ticket counter because her bag was over 40 pounds, where as you know all other airlines allow 50 pounds. (LAX)  I did watch Spirit in Detroit catch everyone and made them pay.  I don’t understand the difference between LAX and DTW.  You can’t check in your nice big expensive luggage anymore because they also changed their linear size for your largest bag and of course the bigger size weighs more.  I could have fit everything in one bag but it would have been oversized and overweight and  I would have had to pay extra at the ticket count.  Therefore I had to take 2 bags and pay for 2 bags which you defiintly want to pay for in advance on-line, if you have access to the internet.
If you don’t check-in on-line and print your own boarding pass there will be a charge of $10.00 for your boarding pass at the ticket counter.  Although you can auto check-in at the airport, there are still many people who almost never fly and are not acquainted to this process.
My mother had not flown in 20 years. Luckily I was able to assist her.  I feel very bad for 1st time Spirit flyers.  They must read everything in their ticket contract, big and small print.  All airlines should be consistent with each other although they seem to be followers of Spirit Airlines.  For now on we will drive for our vacations.
Dear LK,
Thank you for pointing this out. You are right, the businessman has an advantage over a business woman if they both have laptops, but the woman has a purse too. She will get charged for that extra ‘personal item’.
More importantly, these fees are excessive and unreasonable. Our FlyersRightsPassenger Bill of Rights 2.0 takes aim at exploitative fees.
FlyersRights has challenged Spirit CEO Baldanza to back up his claim that Spirit Airlines actually offers “good customer service” by releasing all the complaints received in 2013.
Kendall Creighton
Dear FlyersRights: 
I am a combat wounded veteran, and an above-knee amputee who wears a prosthesis.  I am very active, travel frequently, and am very able/capable/mobile.   On May 23rd 2014, I flew to Seattle, wore pants so my prosthesis wasn’t visible, and sat in an exit row without any incident.
On my return
flight today, Alaska Airline #4 from Seattle to DCA May 26th 2014, I wore shorts and was issued an exit row ticket (from Seattle to DCA) by the Alaska Airline ticketing agent in Bellingham, WA.  When I boarded my flight, and tried to sit in the exit row (17F), I was stopped by Jim, an Alaska Airline flight attendant, and was told I could not sit in the row because I was wearing a prosthesis.  At no point in time did he ask me if I had the ability to accomplish the task required to sit in an exit row, but only that I had to sit elsewhere because I had a prosthetic leg.
I asked to to show me this policy, and he left to ‘check’ his regulations, only to return and tell me ‘I looked at the regulation, and it said people with prosthetics can’t sit in an exit row’  I asked him to show me this regulation, and he replied ‘I don’t have to, I am a uniformed crew member’ I tried to show him the FAA regulation 8900.1 that states:
C. Selection Criteria.
3) The airline employee designated to determine who may be assigned to an exit seat must make this assessment in a nondiscriminatory manner by consistent application of the neutral criteria.
c) For example, if a passenger with a prosthesis is being evaluated for assignment to an exit seat, the presence of the prosthesis would not be the determinant for being able to meet the criteria but rather the physical ability to perform the exit seat duties.
d) During the screening, if the CH determines that a passenger may not have full functionality of the prosthetic limb (e.g., the passenger has removed the prosthesis for comfort or their prosthesis is in a sling or arm-brace), then they may not meet the “mobility” exit row criteria.
Jim wanted no part of this, and told me he would get a security agent.  I maintained respectful in tone and manner the entire time, while he was abrasive and and stuck on the fact that I was wearing a prosthesis, and not in my ability to perform the actions required.  After he threatened me with security removing me from the plane, I took my newly assigned seat in 19F, and sat there for my return trip.
I am very upset that this flight attendant went against what is stated in the FAA regulation, and Alaska Airlines policy, as he was very discriminatory in his selection because of the presence of a prosthesis, and NOT in the physical ability to perform exit seat duties.
I have also filed a compliant with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division disability section.  I would appreciate if this matter was investigated, and if you have any suggestions on further actions that can be taken.

-Adam P.

Alaska Airline’s Repsonse:
On Mon, May 26, 2014 at 8:39 PM, <> wrote:
Thank you for contacting Alaska Airlines. We have received your message and are committed to responding as soon as possible, in the order received. Some issues require a more thorough review and currently may take up to 30 days for response.
Should you need to contact us before we’ve responded, please use your reply button to retain the subject line containing your file number (# 1400583). This will keep all messages together in the same file.
We truly appreciate your taking the time to write. Your comments mean a lot to us and we use them regularly to help shape the future of our company.
Alaska Airlines Customer Care
Phone: 1-800-654-5669

FlyersRights’ Response:

Dear Adam, 
The only thing I would add additionally would be a request to the airline and to DOT that 1) any fine be paid at least half for this violation which should be 5-10 times the cost of your ticket, 2) that you receive a written apology from the Alaska Airlines, 3) that the airline be required to educate its flight attendants on the rule and on the importance of not lying to passengers about FAA regs and airline policy, potentially the most troubling aspect of this incident.  Flight crews have great responsibilities for flight safety and are given far reaching powers especially after 9/11 but it important that such power is not abused.
Paul Hudson

DOT’s Response:
U.S. Department of
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Office of the Secretary
of Transportation
June 2, 2014 
Thank you for writing to us concerning your problem with Alaska Airlines involving disability issues.  We were sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction and will investigate your complaint.

We are sending a copy of your letter to the company and asking it to reply to you, with a copy to us.  We will review the response and take further action, as appropriate.  We will advise you of the disposition of your complaint when our investigation is concluded; however, you should be aware that due to the time necessary for the carrier to conduct its own review of your complaint and get back to you and us, coupled with our need to review your case and the hundreds of others that we receive each year, our response to you will likely take some time.

In addition to ensuring prompt corrective action when a complaint and carrier response indicate that the airline’s policies and procedures are not in compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the Department generally will pursue further enforcement action on the basis of a number of complaints from which it may infer a pattern or practice of discrimination.  However, where one or a few complaints describe particularly egregious conduct on the part of a carrier and those complaints are supported by adequate evidence, we will pursue enforcement action as our resources permit.  You should be aware that the Department is statutorily limited in the remedies it may pursue for violations of the ACAA.  In this regard, the Department may not award monetary damages or pecuniary relief to the injured party.  The Department is limited to issuing cease and desist orders proscribing unlawful conduct by carriers in the future and assessing civil penalties payable to the government.  The Department may only take such action through a settlement or after a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.  To obtain a personal monetary award of damages, a complainant would have to file a private legal action that may be based on private contract rights or on civil rights statutes that provide for a private right of action.

We have also entered your complaint in our computerized industry monitoring system, and the company will be charged with the complaint in our Air Travel Consumer Report. This report is made available to the aviation industry, the news media and the general public so that both consumers and air travel companies can compare the overall and disability-related complaint records of individual airlines.  We also use this complaint data to track trends or spot areas of concern which we feel may warrant further action in the future.  This system also serves as a basis for rulemaking, legislation and research.

To assist you in understanding the rights and responsibilities of airlines and air travelers with disabilities, I have enclosed a copy of the publication New Horizons that summarizes the Department of Transportation’s ACAA rules. Other useful consumer information for air travelers, including the above referenced complaint report and our pamphlet Fly-Rights, a Consumer’s Guide to Air Travel, can be found on our website at

I hope this information is useful.  Thank you for taking the time to contact us.


Norman A. Strickman
Director, Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings




Founder Kate Hanni with President, Paul Hudson 

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