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No Seat For You!

April  12, 2017

(Here
is FlyersRights’ letter to Blane Workie, Assistant General Counsel for
Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings at the U.S. Department of
Transportation:)

A
passenger rights crisis has finally boiled over with the viral video of
a doctor being violently and dragged, bleeding off a United Airlines
flight.

We have
proposed numerous times solutions to what airlines call “disruptive
passengers” and what passengers often call airline abuse, to no avail.

We
are calling on Transportation Secretary Chao to hold a summit meeting
with Airline CEOs, passenger reps and pilot and flight attendant union
heads to resolve this and appoint a task force to work out new
regulations to stop this. This should take place next week on
4/19  or 4/21 as 4/20 is an important meeting at FAA for repeal of
regulations.

After seeing that video and United Airlines response, blaming the passenger, no one believes that continuing to give airlines carte blanche to
abuse and assault passengers will make air travel great again. Instead
unless DOT acts I am afraid President Trump and Secretary Chao will send
air travel into the dirt. 

The next time this happens we may well see passenger riots.

As
with tarmac confinements that were affecting 150,000 to 250,000 per
year, passenger abuse and disruption is far worse than just one
incident.

Regards

Paul Hudson
President, Flyersrights.org
Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee

Passengers
crowd the gate at the airport waiting to board. This is when flyers
usually learn from a gate agent if a flight is overbooked. (photo:
FlyerTalk)

The disturbing United Airlines  video proves the time is now for government to step in and protect consumers.

The cellphone clip fell on fertile soil, as the majority of Americans despise or even hate their major airlines.

To recap, on Sunday four ‘must-ride’ United crew members needed to board a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky,

When no passengers accepted an offer of a $400 voucher to be placed on a later flight, it upped the ante to $800 (plus a night in a hotel).

That was enough to tempt two passengers to leave. At that point, rather than raising the price further, the crew randomly selected a pair of travelers, apparently using a computer (do gate agents have a special algorithm for this?). The unlucky flyers were told to collect their things and disembark.

One man, who claimed to be a doctor with patients to attend to the next day, refused to go. The airline called for police back-up. Officers boarded the plane, and removed him against his will, to the obvious distress of both him and the other flyers.

Yet United was unrepentant, apologizing only for overbooking the flight, not the use of force.

In classic Orwellian form, United released a statement:

Flight
3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked
for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily
and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the
overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be
directed to authorities.
“Re-accommodate”?
Not only is it one of the most appalling actions taken by an airline,
their response is even more appalling. All they had to say was, we take
this situation very seriously and are performing a complete internal
investigation.

The question becomes, at what point should total authority be granted to airline employees to use to deal with an overbooking? Never.

The airlines’ ‘We-Do-This-To-Stop-Another-911’ argument – which hands them the right to do anything under the guise of public safety – has now worn very thin.

Involuntary flight bumps should be illegal

United’s gate staff chose to force a customer off the flight – risking physical harm – to him, and other passengers – so they could board an employee. This should be out of the question, if not illegal.

Last year, US airlines denied boarding to 40,000 passengers

Too little, too late. No point praising UA’s CEO although he’s finally buckled to public anger and disgust.

According to an article from AP, the crew members approached the gate staff after the boarding was complete.

At the bare minimum, once you’re boarded and strapped in, your contract with the airline should be honored.

Kate Hanni, FlyersRights founder said, “I think we call out both Congress and the President to make “air travel great again” by pointing out there seems to be no oversight by the Senate Oversight committee, no followup by FAA or executive branch, and no flying public consumer issues being considered due to the money free-flowing into Congress from the airlines and their well funded lobby.”

United’s Contract of Carriage allows it to boot a passenger off for pretty much any reason. When was the last time you read it? It’s a nice read: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspx



United Airlines reported full-year profits of $2.3 billion in 2016

“Our fourth quarter financial and operating performance capped an outstanding year for United Airlines,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz in January 2017.

“In 2016, we put into action our plan to become the best airline in the world, and last year’s results demonstrate we are on our way to achieving that ambition. We will continue delivering on this commitment by investing in our employees, elevating our customer experience and driving strong and consistent returns for our shareholders.”


When you find yourself on an oversold flight,
your rights:

Different
airlines have different protocols for determining who gets bumped. Some
airlines bump the people who don’t have seat assignments. Other
airlines decide based on who checked in last. Others decide based on
status and the booking class you have.
If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, the Department of Transportation regulates what you’re entitled to. Here are the rules, as published by the DOT:
  • If
    you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute
    transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination
    (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled
    arrival time, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline arranges
    substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your
    destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time
    (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must
    pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final
    destination that day, with a $675 maximum.
  • If the substitute
    transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two
    hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not
    make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation
    doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).
  • If your
    ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket
    or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation
    is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a
    ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that
    flight.
  • You always get to keep your original ticket and use it
    on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can
    request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were
    bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment
    for your inconvenience.
  • If you paid for optional services on
    your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did
    not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required
    to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those
    payments to you.
As you can see, in many cases you’re
entitled to a sizable cash payment, up to $1,350. However, the airlines
never divulge this, nor do they offer to give you cash – but instead a
travel voucher for a future flight, which carries restrictions and may
have an expiration date. 
Demand Cash:
Airlines are required to pay via cash or check to flyers they bump involuntarily who are owed compensation. 

And, if you paid for extras such as premium seating or checked bag fees, a refund is required for services you didn’t receive.

FlyersRights’ founder and spokesperson, Kate Hanni, is available for media interviews on passenger rights and protections:
To reach our airline expert Kate Hanni for interview requests, please call +1 707-337-0328 or katcrew4@aol.com.

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