Kate Speaks to Global Travel Congress

Hurricane Irene Shatters Air Schedules

What Are Your Cancellation Rights?

FlyersRights Helps Again

Kate Speaks to Global Congress on Travel

On August 26th and 27th, our Executive Director addressed the Global Congress on Legal, Safety, and Security Issues in Travel. The Hospitalitylawyer.com-sponsored Global Congress, held in Houston’s George P. Brown Convention Center August 25-28, was designed to facilitate safe, secure and uninterrupted travel via an all-encompassing public-privatedialogue dedicated to the sharing of best practices for the global travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.

On August 26th Kate participated in “What Have We Learned from Recent Travel Disruptions,” a panel discussion held with senior officials from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, HospitalityLawyer.com, the Professional Convention Management Association, and conTgo, a company that produces mobile travel aid applications.

What she learned was that viewpoints differ widely in the travel industry. Kate was your voice in the discussion, as usual. One panel member insisted that the traveling public is mostly interested in problems associated with TSA, not flight delays, while another actually argued with an audience member who said that he felt undervalued as an air traveler. Our Director assured them that while TSA issues are very important to us, delays are the bane of our travel experience, and that we do, overwhelmingly, feel undervalued and harassed.

The audience erupted into applause.

Saturday, Kate presented to a full house “Traveler Rights: Best Practices in Public Ports When Passengers Are Stranded”. She discussed who we are, what we do, and why we do it. The presentation, while humorous and fast-paced, delivered two key messages:

  • Communication, cooperation, and collaboration are conspicuously absent from air travel. Despite years of promises, massive weather problems still create nightmarish passenger situations as airlines, airport managers, and government agencies fail to coordinate their response.
  • Passenger confusion over shifting and inconsistently-applied rules is a major contributor to “travel hell.” Hidden fees make fare comparison challenging. Even calling customer service might cost money. We fear arbitrary application of airport security rules-rules that are not published. Flight crews may object to our attire and deny boarding while one airline promotes bikini-clad women on the sides of its airplanes. There is no standard for passenger conduct, and flight crew decisions are final.

She told the wide variety of travel buyers, suppliers, and supporters that we are all in this together. Stranded air travelers miss hotel reservations, car rentals, and cruises. Travel is a system, interconnected by the travelers.

Hurricane Irene Shatters Air Schedules

Weather is the largest single cause of flight cancellations, and last weekend’s storm absolutely shattered airline schedules. The effects on the east coast are obvious, but the profound ripple effect vividly demonstrated how fragile our air travel system is.

Irene’s march up our east coast caused about 13,000 flight cancellations. ThoseHurricane Irene Pathcancellations were not only at airports directly affected by the storm, but spread throughout the country as flights from other airports found their destinations closed.

The domino effect continued as aircraft and crews were not in position for their follow-on segments. Airlines also moved several hundred airplanes out of harm’s way, further disrupting resumption of service.

While airports are now open, disruptions may continue for several days. If you have travel plans, check your reservation status, and check your flight status frequently as your travel date approaches this week. If you encounter problems you can’t solve, contact the FlyersRights Hotline at (877) 359-6776.

What Are Your Cancellation Rights?

As experienced air travelers know, plans can be interrupted for an astonishing array of reasons. Almost all of those reasons are beyond our control; many of them are beyond the airlines’ control, and some would not have occurred if the airlines had been doing their job. So, the answer to the question is “It depends.”

Cancelled Flight BoardFor any cancellation, you can either request a cash refund or accept a voucher, but the voucher ties you to that airline. The urgency of your travel may help you make that decision. A new booking with the same airline may be easier to come by, and a one-way, short lead time ticket on another airline will almost certainly be very expensive. Interline agreements that once allowed you to take your ticket to any other airline’s counter for immediate booking are no longer common.

If you can’t get an immediate rebooking, you will need lodging and food. Here’s where “it depends.” If the cancellation was because of a mechanical problem or something else the airline controls (crew availability, for example), then the airline must provide accommodations, usually amounting to a hotel stay and small meal voucher.

On the other hand, for uncontrollable circumstances, the short answer is “You’re on your own!” No lodging, no food, see you in the morning. The FlyersRights Hotline log is full of member complaints detailing airline insistence that their controllable delays were actually weather-related. Often, the crew first cited mechanical difficulties, and other airline officials shifted to the old “weather defense.”

If you find your flight cancelled, gather as much information as you can. Use your smartphone to record any cabin announcements regarding delay reasons. Here’s a trick-if you’re already on board, conspire with a fellow passenger. Have the other person ask for the delay reason while you take a vid of the conversation on your smartphone. Get the names of crew members who speak about the delay reason.

FlyersRights Helps Again

FlyersRights member Lisa K. had one of “those trips” on Delta last month, and turned to our Hotline (877-359-6776) for help. In the course of that trip, she and her husband experienced three delayed-and then cancelled-flights. When Delta offered neither help nor apology, she turned to us.

The first cancellation was for mechanical reasons, and the others were attributed toDelta Airlinesweather. As we said in the Cancellation Rights article, mechanical reasons are the airlines’ fault, just like any other cause they could have prevented, but weather cancellations leave us on our own. Delta focused on the weather cancellations when denying Lisa and her husband any help at all.

When Lisa called our Hotline, our Hotline Director, Dr. Joel Smiler, connected her with our Delta contact-their Director of Customer Care. After a brief exchange, Delta provided some compensation and an apology. Here’s what Lisa said to Joel:

We really appreciate your assistance….I doubt we would have received anything if you hadn’t helped us. I was also told that they will use our experience to improve their service…hopefully they will follow through and help future Delta passengers avoid the problems we had. Thanks again….it’s a relief to know that an organization like flyers rights is out there to help people deal with these types of situations!

We very much appreciate Delta’s increasing customer focus. The Hotl
ine is there for you, absolutely free, 24/7. You iPhone users should also check out our
iPhone App on the website.

Remember, for the very latest in airline passenger rights news, Facebook users can “like” the FlyersRights Fan Page. Also, please check in on our Flyers Rights Education Fund Cause Page.

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“The War Is Not Over”

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Hotline: (877) 359-3776