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Speedy Recovery

March 15, 2017

Tuesday’s Northeast blizzard paralyzed US air travel and forced cancellation of 8,000 flights since Sunday according to the  flight tracking website FlightAware.

Nearly all flights at New York City’s three airports were canceled on Tuesday, with similar issues at Boston and Baltimore. Most flights were cancelled before the day even began.
Other major airports in the Northeast  also experienced major disruptions,  including Philadelphia, Washington Dulles and Washington National,  with about 50 percent of flights cancelled Tuesday.
FlyersRights demands that the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Agency assist, monitor and verify that emergency operation plans are followed and that recovery is rapid.
There is no excuse for lack of preparedness. 
AAA offered the following tips for airline passengers in the coming days:

  • Check flight status before leaving home and sign up for your airline’s flight status alert service – It beats making multiple calls and can help you to get information faster than waiting on hold for an airline representative.
  • Ask if re-booking fees are being waived – Most airlines, although not required to do so, will waive change fees due to severe weather.
  • If conditions are safe and your flight is not cancelled, allow for more time on the road in order to arrive at the airport in plenty of time – Remember that there are a finite number of seats on each airplane, and those who do not arrive in time will find that their seat has been given to another passenger who is anxious to get where they are going.
  • Be prepared for down time in airports – Carry snacks and entertainment for both adults and children but, remember to get drinks after clearing security checkpoints due to TSA restrictions.
  • Be patient – Try to keep in mind that you are not the only delayed, tired, and frustrated traveler. You have lots of company, and a backlog of challenges will take time to correct.
  • “Bullying” airline personnel is not recommended – Kindness and understanding with the person who is helping you will take you much farther. Many airline employees have been through the same challenges you have and are working hard to accommodate throngs of passengers.
  • Carry a FULLY CHARGED cell phone – Passengers need to be prepared to wait in the airport in the event of a schedule change and carrying a fully charged communications device will ensure that any airline alerts or e-mails are received promptly.
  • Make decisions based on your personality and travel delay “tolerance” – If you are already experiencing a high level of frustration, you may not want to arrive at the airport for the first flight after it re-opens, as crowded conditions and delays are reasonable expectations.
  • Consider an alternate and perhaps even WARM destination – If your trip was cancelled, you may find some flexibility with travel vendors with regard to when and even where you go. Those who were going for a ski vacation out west may now be more in the mood for the beach as a cure for blizzard induced cabin fever.
  • If your flight is canceled you can obtain a r efund and take alternate transportation -if y ou do not want the accept the airlines’ r escheduled flight (which can take several d ays.) 
  • You are entitled to cash compensation for EU flight delays if  you are bumped from an overbooked flight.
  • If you are on an international trip the airline is required to use all practical means to avoid or mitigate delay, or pay delay compensation -which can range up to $5,000- under the Montreal Convention Article 19.
  • If other airlines are flying to your destination, you can ask that your excessively delayed or canceled flight ticket be endorsed to fly on another airline (this is voluntary now but has petitioned to bring back this reciprocity rule). 

If you need more help, you can call the Hotline, 877-FLYERS6 or file a complaint with the DOT at

FlyersRights Argued Before DC Circuit Judges Against FAA’s Failure To Regulate Seat Sizes

  The takeaway is that it’s a confidential ‘trade secret’ on how aircraft manufacturers design a sardine class that’s escapable within 90 seconds

FlyersRights is challenging the  Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to not set a minimum airline seat size. 
Last Friday, we argued in front of a panel of DC Circuit judges that the FAA needed to put up or shut up regarding the airline manufacturers’ “secret evacuation studies” that say current seat sizes are safe.

FlyersRights argued without any FAA rules, airlines will keep shrinking seats in pursuit of higher profits.
FlyersRights explained during the hearing that seat pitch and width have shrunk over the past decade, endangering the emergency evacuation process and cramming too many passengers into too tight a situation, creating a risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis. 

The FAA has evaded the publication of a study sought by FlyersRights that shows planes could be evacuated in 90 seconds, as required. This is because aircraft manufacturers claim it contains proprietary information. But FlyersRights argued there are well-established methods of entering the information into the court record without endangering trade secrets.

“They can’t point to either a physical demonstration or computer simulation where this factor has been taken into account,” FlyersRights attorney Joseph E. Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock PC said. “They say it has, but it’s secret evidence, they can’t show us the study.”
The FAA also dodged blood clot concerns, saying it’s not the agency with oversight over those sorts of health issues.
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, told  Law360  about 10 percent of passengers already can’t fit into regular coach seats and airlines plan to push further to create what he dubs “torture class.”
He noted that the panel had shown interest in getting affidavits from passengers who have posted complaints to public forums after it said FlyersRights hadn’t produced specific enough complaints to warrant consideration.
U.S. Circuit Judges Janice Rogers Brown, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard sat on the panel for the D.C. Circuit.

FlyersRights is represented by Joseph E. Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock PC.
The federal defendants are represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Mark B. Stern and Karen Schoen of the U.S. Department of Justice and FAA in-house counsel Lorelei Peter.

The case is Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA et al., case number 16-1101, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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