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They Told You So
Sept. 28, 2016

This week we congratulate The Washington Post for writing an airline promotional piece and masquerading it as ‘news’.

Very well done, airlines. TSA also got their talking points in with no filter or checking of accuracy and facts!

The article ballyhoos that “airfares are down” and passenger satisfaction is up. Flying is perfect.


Like many of you who sent us this story, it was with awe and disbelief we read the piece. The happy-talk was so contradictory to feedback we receive on a daily basis.

Of course, air travel is prone to blunders, such as weather-delayed flights and sporadically lost bags. After all, the word “travel” comes from the Old French”travail”, meaning a suffering or painful effort, an arduous journey. Both words “travail” and “travel” have their roots in the Latin Tripalium, an instrument of torture. How apropos even today!

But one big factor within an airline’s control is customer service, which can make the difference between a satisfactory experience and a distressing one. It usually isn’t the unappetizing inflight food, lagging WiFi or whether the in-flight headphones work that counts as much as how you are treated.

Still, almost no industry in America treats its customers as badly on a day-to-day basis as the airlines – involving delays, cancellations, no leg room, shrinking seats, crowded planes, fees for everything and insolent contract employees.  
Article or Ad? 

Beware of ‘sponsored stories’. One tip-off that this article was likely an advertising piece or sponsored journalism was that it celebrated passengers being required to tag their own bags. Shifting more responsibilities onto the passenger with none of the benefits is hardly something to applaud.
FlyersRights did more digging and found that  Airlines 4 America (A4A), the industry’s lobbying group, commissioned the Ipsos survey referenced in the article.

The airlines then cherry-picked one ticket to get the 20% taxes number. Overall tax burdens are hard to calculate because some taxes are percentage based and some are flat, but the airlines used a low fare price to inflate the percentage. Business Travel Coalition says the rate should be closer to 16%. We also know the airlines charge ancillary fees to dodge federal taxes.
FlyersRights has proposed that this tax loophole be closed in regard to airline fees, as it is draining the Aviation Trust Fund. We also recommend that ancillary fees be deemed exorbitant and prohibited if they exceed a certain multiple of the reasonable cost of providing the service. 
“We can expect more of these types of planted articles by A4A, which just added two new people to its PR dept, including a social media specialist,” said Paul Hudson, FlyersRights’ president.

No amount of travel writer happy talk can change the unhappy experience of air travel today.

Therefore, dear airline CEOs, just as the song says – every move you make, every breath you take we’ll be watching you.


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