Press Statement
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Gil Meneses
(202) 445-1570

Coalition for Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights Reacts to Air Transport Association Comments on Extreme Weather

“Blaming the System is the Easiest Excuse to Avoid Government Intervention on Behalf of the Flying Public,” – Kate Hanni, Coalition Spokesperson

Washington, D.C. (February 23, 2007) – The Coalition for Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights issued the following statement from its spokesperson, Kate Hanni, on the Air Transport Association (ATA) Board statement on extreme weather procedures.

“Blaming the system is the easiest excuse to avoid government intervention on behalf of the flying public. The bottom line is that no matter what the FAA or traffic controllers say, the pilot is always the final decision-maker in any situation. This latest attempt by the Air Transport Association (ATA) to hide behind FAA regulations is a sad excuse and a cowardly attempt to evade blame and point the finger in the wrong direction.

Any internal guidelines are simply a band aid that airlines can remove at their whim. This is merely a pre-emptive move to stop the bleeding and stop legislation.

It is evident from our December 29th experience on American Airlines and last week’s stranded passengers in New York aboard jetBlue that the airlines are not willing to protect the interests and well-being of their passengers. Nor are they willing to police themselves to ensure that similar incidents are not repeated.

We applaud Senator Boxer and Congressman Thompson’s efforts to protect the flying public and look forward to working with them and Congressman Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and members of Congress to ensure the introduction and passage of a comprehensive, enforceable Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights.”

The Coalition for Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights now counts 13,000 members nationwide. The coalition continues to gather momentum and support from public officials, national organizations and the flying public. Through several recent visits to Capitol Hill, members of the coalition have met with a number of Members of Congress and will continue to visit Washington, D.C. until an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights is enacted.

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18 comments on “Coalition for Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights Reacts to Air Transport Association Comments on Extreme Weather

  • Well, I hope you are successful. I’ve had so many bad experiences with various airlines for the past 20 years I can’t even recount them all. You can send this on to any Congressman you wish. If they want to contact me they can do so at rsowardsjr@austin.rr.com

    Dan Sowards
    Austin, TX

  • If you want to see real aairline abuse check the February 19 and 20th issue of USA Today’s front page. United Airlines subsidiary diverted two planes bound for Denver to Cheyenne, WY, put the passengers in the terminal and after a few hours the pilots and crew reboarded their planes and took off, leaving the passengers stranded!! About the same time another two planes did the same thing at another small city airport! Now that’s really abusing the paying passenger!!

  • Kate,

    Three points on the proposed bill:

    1.

    There are two “exceptions” to the 3-hour hold time included in the bill. One of them appears to, effectively, allow the pilot to completely ignore the 3-hour rule simply by declaring that it is unsafe to allow passengers to leave the aircraft. Given the expense, to the airline, connected with allowing passengers to leave the aircraft (refund requests, re-booking, etc.) pilots would be under pressure, from their superiors, to falsely claim it is unsafe to passengers to leave the aircraft. The text, as copied from Sen. Boxer’s website, appears as follows:

    “The legislation provides… exceptions to the three-hour option. The pilot may decide to not allow passengers to deplane if he or she reasonably believes their safety or security would be at risk due to extreme weather or other emergencies.”

    2.

    As I expected, the Air Transport Association has fired its first shot in its effort to block this legislation. I think it’s reasonable to assume their efforts, in this direction, are going to intensify.

    For this reason, the Coalition should start a fundraising campaign for the purpose of running TV and print ads.

    3.

    Finally, passenger rights legislation should fund additional positions in the US DOT. DOT monitors should be stationed at 20 of the largest airports in the country. Airline staff will be on better behavior if they know they may need to justify their statements and actions to a government agent!

  • This post is not for the uninitiated…

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    It is time to state the obvious.

    The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 has failed.

    A Bill of Rights is a first step.

    Limited Regulation is the logical conclusion. I think the Passenger Bill of Rights should retract the statement calling for change without increase in airfares. If every plane ticket cost $20 more, across the board, the Legacy Carriers would be able to change their Executive Compensation to allow ground staff to tow airplanes and pay the FBO’s to move jetways and get the hostages off the planes. But they won’t make that decision on their own.

    Read the APA Press Release on the sidebar of the main page of this blog. Legacy Carrier Management will only go down squealing like the T1000 melting in the pot of molten steel.

    Again, read the APA Press Release.

    As an example of the insane power held by these tyrants, consider that the APA had a solution to allow nonstop AMR flights to Beijing from Dallas. AMR management would have had to ACKNOWLEDGE the pilots had a better, cheaper, more profitable plan, and thus AMR management would have had to AGREE to do something that wasn’t their idea.

    Instead, they lost a multi-hundred-million dollar route award that would have funneled ALL of the Latin American traffic to China through AMR’s Dallas hub.

    Why?

    Because it wasn’t their idea.

    Abracadabra.

    And no, I’m not affiliated with AMR line staff in any way. But I am a Child of the Golden Age of Air Transport (Hi Kate…)

    -w

  • w, so was I right on my text mail? Love that FAA website. Anyway you make some good points. The problem is that the FAA reauthorization bill takes away some fees and taxes for the airlines that they are very happy about. Those are, by the way being passed on to smaller planes and jets. That’s not my concern. My concern is that they are probably going to be adjusting their price anyway, but not necessarily upwards. Also if you look at the European Legislation and their fines for delays, they actually have reduced their ticket price.

    I think there is a more fundamental problem with traffic that some engineers and very smart structural people can figure out in order to accomodate people in deplaning after a certain period of time by choice.

    You see, in our situation, we weren’t in a line up. The flow of traffic had nothing to do with it. We needed a law to protect us and get us off the tarmac since we knew we weren’t going to fly that night anyway. We knew hour and hours before we actually deplaned.

    But your comments are smart, cogent and I agree in principle. The main thing is that I need to get the flight delay situation and posting information in the bill. I had a major CEO from a Cosmetics Company in Dallas Call today and say he was in New York, stuck in the airport because they hadn’t notified him earlier of his flight cancellation and they had time to do so.

    Anyway, ciao w

    Kate

  • Some form of Re-regulation of the industry is the only answer to solving the sad state of affiairs our airline industry is in and to rescue passengers from the dictates of managers who are scarficing passenger welfare because of their mismanagment of the industry since Senator Kennedy and Alfred Kahn turned them loose to destroy the industry. I believe there needs to be a Airline Study Panel composed on members with back grounds in aviation law, finance,airline/aviation history operations and marketing which would assist Congress in determing the best course of action to save the airline industry from further self destruction. Said panel would not include members from govenrment, airlines, airline regulators, or other active persons currently engated in the airline industry. If it is left soley up to Congress to save our airline industry it will get screwed up and ATA and the airline will once more win the battle while continung to lose the war of eroading passenger satisfaction and total destruction of the industry. I was an airline manager for almost fifty years in a different era but basic managment techniques have not changed but have been altered to fit the unwise rapid uncontrolled expansion of fleets and routes. Just two years after deregulation the legacy airlines were swiming in a sea of red ink. It will only get worse not better unless the industry is overhauled. Let is not forget that a viable, safe and sound airline industry is a vital link in our war on terror and the economic well being of our nation. Likewise are we sure the airlines are using our diminishing natural fuel resources to the best advantage or are the airlines rush to compete wasing fuel?

    Bwana Hal

  • The bill of rights is the right first step. however – i don’t believe the airlines are the guilty party here. it doesn’t make sense that they would risk alienating passengers in the extremely competitive market unless government regulations (read: FAA regulations around clearances and gate costs) dictated it so.

    I’ve just received an email update that an attorney has been procured to chase this. however, I was dismayed to find out its under a class action against Jet Blue.

    Get off Jet Blue’s back on this one. As a very frequent flyer, i can tell you jet blue is far superior to any other airline in terms of service, safety, and reliability. We should seriously reconsider what it is we’re fighting for. Good service / laws or money and punitive damages (most of which goes to attorneys anyway).

  • I just spoke on the telephone with the American Diabetes Association, I find it very disconcerting that they DO NOT have a position on this very important issue which severely impacts their membership. When I spoke with them I was very clear and asked specifically about this issue. I was put on hold and when the representative returned she began to read the statement concerning taking medicines aboard aircraft.When I corrected her she informed me that they did not have a position on this issue. A group of this size has dropped the ball and needs to get up to speed on this important issue and I would urge all diabetics and their families to contact them and voice their concerns.
    http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp
    EMAIL
    AskADA@diabetes.org

    Keep up the good work,
    Mark

  • As this dynamic plays itself out it will be interesting to see how it changes the transportation industry. It is likely that it will carry over to other spheres.

    I don’t fly anymore, but when I did, the situation was different. Planes flew on time, flight attendants, then known as stewardesses, were polite and helpful, and they served actual meals.

    Something changed, and it would be worth studying the nature of the change. Money is the likely culprit, but deregulation is probably a significant factor.

    I am old enough to remember when train travel was the most common way of getting around. The trains were comfortable, fast, dependable, and the dining cars were quality restaurants. Barry Commoner wrote decades ago that train travel is the most energy-conserving mode of travel. It is likely that the airline travel problems are beyond repair, given the corporate mindset in the “U.S.” Do we really need to get everywhere we want immediately all the time?

  • As this dynamic plays itself out it will be interesting to see how it changes the transportation industry. It is likely that it will carry over to other spheres.

    I don’t fly anymore, but when I did, the situation was different. Planes flew on time, flight attendants, then known as stewardesses, were polite and helpful, and they served actual meals.

    Something changed, and it would be worth studying the nature of the change. Money is the likely culprit, but deregulation is probably a significant factor.

    I am old enough to remember when train travel was the most common way of getting around. The trains were comfortable, fast, dependable, and the dining cars were quality restaurants. Barry Commoner wrote decades ago that train travel is the most energy-conserving mode of travel. It is likely that the airline travel problems are beyond repair, given the corporate mindset in the “U.S.” Do we really need to get everywhere we want immediately all the time?

  • The only way to fix these problems is if the airlines raise their ticket prices. Ever since 9/11, ticket prices have been at all time lows and unfortunately customer service has fallen apart. When airlines make less money, consumers hurt. Airlines have been forced to cut back on employees and other amenities all for passengers having lower ticket prices. Lower ticket prices have hurt the entire industry. Planes are filled almost to capacity and when there are weather issues, the airlines do not have the money or employees they need to take care of the passengers. I would love to go back to the days where ticket prices were higher, less people were traveling and customer service was top notch. Most people unfortunately do not want to pay higher ticket prices. Until people are willing to accept the fact that ticket prices need to go up so airlines can get back to where they were years ago, these problems will not be solved. I remember a time when flying was a special occasion. People dressed nicely on planes, hot meals were served, and if there was problems with missing baggage, airline took care of it the right way. Ever since 9/11, ticket prices are cheaper, but everything else has disappeared. Now airlines don’t service the passenger if their bags are lost, they contract that work out. While airlines have begun to make some small profits last year, they are nothing compared to what they made before 2000. I started flying in the early ’90’s and enjoyed it. Only since 9/11 have I begun to hate it. I for one will be willing to pay more for a ticket if we can get back to the way things were before. It is a known fact, when business slash prices, customer service falls apart.

  • Dear Kate and CAPBR,

    I am not part of the founding fathers diverted to Austin, but I travel a lot for business.

    I have signed the petition, and convinced others too as well. It has been very exciting to watch this gain attention and momentum!

    I am a little worried about the Class action. If Kate, and therefore the group, become bogged down in a lawsuit, who will be pushing for the comprehensive bill of rights for ALL passengers?

    I have already roped in 15 family and friends for the petition, and I am willing to donate money—but ONLY if it’s specifically for the bill or rights.

    I was stranded for 9 hours once AFTER A FLIGHT FROM SYDNEY TO LAX TO JFK. My ordeal was DAYS long, not hours.

    I am sorry for what your founding fathers went through in Austin, but if you are in it for the Class Action $$, then I am out.

    Can you please differentiate? Why should the rest of us 13,000 petitioners donate $ and time for your class action?

    We want a bill of rights, not for your specific group to get compensated.

    So NO, please don’t do the Class Action. The bill of rights can only come with comittment and focus!

    Sincerely, Garrett

  • Garrett,

    The Class Action Suit has absolutely no costs associated with it. The attorneys take the risks, not us.

    All of the donations go to support my travel to DC to stomp for the Bill of Rights. In fact almost all of my time is dedicated to the Bill of Rights right now…to the point where I cannot work. No worries about a Class Action, it won’t distract, it will actually help our cause to get the legislation done. E-mail me at katcrew4@aol.com and I’ll give you some more information o.k.?

  • As the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights heads for debate in Congress, now is the time for everone to support this long overdue legislation. Because what the airlines have going for themselves here, and they know it, is that Homeland Security now gives them carte blanch to treat passengers’ concerns with total disregard under the new anti-terrorist laws. With this legal coverage in place, there is no incentive for them to do anything different from their current practices regarding the treatment of their customers.

    Any passenger that even mildly protests their captivity inside of a grounded aircraft, can be heavily prosecuted for “interfering with” or “intimidating” flight attendants (under Federal Law: US Code § 46504). A passenger can get from 20 years to life in prison for making an airline employee feel bad…versus the 11 hours of being held prisoner on a commercial airliner. It doesn’t matter if the toilets are overflowing, if your kid becomes sick and needs medical treatment, someone needs food and water or is out of their heart medicine. Even just visually complaining by looking at a flight attendant the “wrong way” (intimidation), under the law, they can now presume that you are attempting to interfere with a flight crew and you can automatically be considered a terrorist suspect.

    You will be arrested and then who knows where you’ll end up, maybe in Guantanamo with no habeas corpus rights or maybe you’ll just be disappeared.

    So just remember, when you’re aboard a plane, just sit down, shut up and take it…because you’re not only just another passenger…now you’re also just another hostage.

  • WE can yap all we want about sub contractors and all the other extemporaneouos stuff BUT..the bottom line is AIRLINES DO NOT LIKE TO CANCEL FLIGHTS. It’s cheaper for them to leave passengers stranded on the tarmac than to pony up for benefits and rewards for having done so.

    I once showed up for a flight to the East Coast that was experiencing delays due to weather and the ticket counter agent point blank asked me: “Do you really need to go tonight?” I was stunned and answered “no”. She then proceeded to book me out the next early afternoon. I arrived on time and in one piece.

    Gate agents do not have the authority to call in a stranded flight. They can scream at their superiors all day and it does not do a bit of good. The call to cancel comes ‘from above’.

    ‘From Above’ looks at one thing only: Flight Revenue.

    I do agree totally that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 has failed miserably. Butch Cassidys #1 point was on target also.

    Best, mtg

  • “It is all the airlines fault, we want better service, lower prices, less delays etc., etc.”

    It sure is fun!

    Okay, that was sarcasm, in case you missed it, but that is essentially what you want the goverment to do, never mind the fact, that a part of the blame for the sad state of the system is exactly due to the same federal goverment you all want to fix it.

    The Air Traffic Control system is simply overwhelmed, relying on old technology, understaffed ATC facilities and inadeaquate use of available airspace and runway facilities. Congress has again and again denied funding, even though the ticket fess collected by same is supposed to be used to directly fund the system. The aviation trust fund has essentially become a slush fund for a myriad of “other works” not associated with aviation.

    As a commercial pilot, I am often flabbergasted, when ATC issues delay instructions, even though the weather is not a factor. Often these delays are instituted at the very last minute, ie after the airplane has been boarded or when taxiing for takeoff. Sometimes these delays have no update time, that is to say, that a certain airport has a groundstop but no time is given for it to end, in other words, it could be ten minutes or three hours.

    What to do then, do you return to the gate, only to be put last in line later or do you wait it out? If pilots knew the delay would be 2-3 hours, I can assure you they too would return o the terminal to grab a slice of pizza, however, with no time frame of reference, I ask again, what do you do?

    The airlines, despite rumours to the contrary, wants to run on time, wants to provide good, consistent service. It is more efficient and it creates return customers, hence it is good for business.

    Certainly having a PBR that fines airlines will compensate you money for lost time or hassles, but it will not get you to your destination on time and isn’t that really what we all should want.

    Of course, if the delay is caused by ATC, shouldn’t the goverment then pay the airlines and you the passenger?

    Oberstar et. al is being disingenous, that is unless his ire is also directed to the people in charge of funding ATC, which interestingly enough are other politicians.

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