Spin The Throttle
The Spin Is On
 
March 22, 2017
Big cuts could be coming to the US transportation system.
President Trump’s plan moves oversight of the air traffic control from the federal government to an independent group, according to budget documents released last Thursday.
Trump, who has long complained about America’s “third-world airports” and “obsolete” air traffic control system, is proposing $16.2 billion for the Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget for fiscal year 2018, which is actually a reduction of 13 percent.
Yet, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the Transportation Committee, hinted that Trump’s pro-reform stance on air traffic control was merely “a political favor” thrown to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee, for backing him in the presidential primary race.
The Trump administration also wants to increase the 9/11 Passenger Security Fee, now assessed to all airline tickets, which helps fund the Transportation Security Administration cover 75 percent of the TSA’s costs.
His budget outline does not specify the amount of the fee increase, but earlier media reports have said the current $5.60 fee would rise by $1 for each flight on a trip to $6.60.
FlyersRights maintains that privatizing the US air traffic control system is surrendering American airspace to the commercial airlines, while causing air travel to get more expensive, because more fees will be implemented. The current system is paid for by taxes on aviation fuel, levies paid by aircraft operators, and other sources.
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he opposes handing over control of civilian air traffic control to an organization “that would be dominated by the airlines. It totally excludes passengers, who are paying for the whole thing. It gives away the entire infrastructure of air traffic control, which is worth tens of billions of dollars, to a private entity which looks, to me, a lot like Amtrak.”
Hudson said that 90 percent of the public in surveys have said the FAA is doing a good job. However, “only 20 percent of the public think the airlines are doing a good job, and we’re going to turn this over to the airlines?”
 

– Cuts TSA budget for screeners while increasing passenger fees so revenue can be diverted to other Trump budget priorities.

– Cuts budget for Coast Guard forces used to interdict contraband and illegal entry by sea.

– Transfers command of Air Traffic Control – billions of dollars in FAA equipment plus unlimited power to tax passengers – over to a corporation controlled by major airlines with no passenger representation.

– Repeals hundreds of DOT/FAA safety, health and consumer protection regulations.

– Continues to allow airlines to shrunk seats, legroom, bathrooms and passenger space without limit.

– Continues to refuse any and all passenger protection measures.

– Allows deceptive ads and marketing to make price shopping difficult to impossible.

– Continues to allow exorbitant or hidden fees without restriction.

– Continues to exempt airlines from all state, local and most federal consumer protection, contract, tort and health laws, excepting only claims for death or physical injury.

– Continues to allow passengers to bring dogs, cats and other animals they claim are for emotional support on airliners without restriction.

– Continues, under the Patriot Act, to authorize flight crews to eject or have arrested any passenger for any reason.

– Reduces or eliminates all fines against airlines and allowing airlines and aircraft makers conduct their own safety inspections and certifications.

Letters!
[First three are a series from JK]

Dear FlyersRights:

Something came up and Delta want[ed] to charge me $200 to take a flight I was going to take anyway. It’s cheaper to buy a SpiritAirlines fare.
(Delta cancelled the second segment of his journey when he didn’t show for the first leg.)

JK

It’s standard procedure for an airline to cancel the connection if the outbound flight was not taken. Sounds like they just want him to get a new ticket with a $200 change fee.
No advice. Sorry. 
Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director
I would file a complaint against Delta with the DOT: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint as it usually results in some benefit to you from the airline.
Kendall Creighton
FlyersRights

Hey, I thought you might like to know that Delta unexpectedly called me this morning to tell me they were issuing me a full refund.

I had put in a refund request asking for credit, given that it was a non-refundable ticket, and I didn’t expect to hear back from then given that it had been a week already. I also wrote an email to the Vice President of Customer Service I found on http://elliott.org/. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.

JK

I got another message from Delta earlier and it turns out my email to the vice president did have an impact.

JK

[next two are a series from JS] Dear FlyersRights:

I’m writing to let you know of a recent experience I had with United Airlines.  I also submitted this feedback to them directly and still waiting for a response.
My husband and I recently booked a trip from SFO to Honolulu.   I did precheck in and our seat assignments were the same as when I booked the trip.  We got to the airport and checked in again and all was well until we were in our boarding line.  My husband happened to check our boarding passes on his mobile app and noticed they had changed my seat two rows up from where he was seated.  I immediately went to the agent and asked him to change me back and asked why this happened.  He ignored the question and immediately gave me back the seat I had originally which was next to my husband.  When we were seated and people were flowing in there were others that didn’t think to look at their boarding pass and found they were moved unbeknownst to them to a different seat away from their family.
The same thing happened on our return flight.  I checked in on mobile app and found they moved me away from my husband so I called United to let them know of their error in separating us even though we were booked on the same itinerary and to change us back to our original seats.  They said they couldn’t because they changed aircrafts but as soon as I asked to be transferred to a manager and explained that I needed to be next to my husband because of a medical condition I have she put me on hold, called the department to have me booked back to seats where we could be together.  She then told  me it was locked and wouldn’t be changed again.  However, when we got to the airport they changed us again!  This time it was across the aisle from each other and because it was a full flight they couldn’t change our seats.  So instead we had to play musical seats with people on our flight to see if they would change so we could be together.  Several other people had the same issue!
WTH is going on with United that they are doing this with paying customers sometimes without notifying people in advance.
Have you had other people complaining about this issue?  What is our recourse besides sending them feedback via their website?
thank you for your advise/guidance.
JS
Hello,
We have not had any recent calls or emails regarding this problem.  It does happen from time to time due to a change of aircraft or flight numbers, but nothing out of the ordinary lately.  You were right to write to United and we would be interested in what they have to say.
In the future if you get to the airport and find it has happened to you and you have a medical reason to be together, if they won’t accommodate you ask to speak to the Conflict Resolution Officer (CRO).  Each airline is supposed to have a designated employee at each station responsible for maintaining the rights of disabled passengers.
Regards,
Joel
Joel J Smiler DVM
Hotline Director
 
 
I just wanted to follow up with you to let you know that United customer service responded to my complaint and with a note of apology and 2 $150 vouchers to use for a future flight.
They haven’t shown this type of customer service in a while so I was very impressed.
JS

FlyersRights’ response to: Gothamist 

 article: National Weather Service: Sorry, You’re Too Stupid To Trust With The REAL Forecast:

To: Ms. Blane Workie, Assistant General Counsel Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings. Department of Transportation 

Cc: Jonathan Dols, deputy assistant general counsel in office of aviation enforcement, Department of Transportation 
Blane,
The National Weather Service now admits they intentionally withheld their revised snow forecast that Northeast coastal cities from D.C. To Boston would not be hit with more than a few inches! They intentionally decided Monday not to update their forecast so as “not to confuse the Public” with the true forecast!
So all airlines cancelled all flights to and from the NE and mayors shut down cities Monday night.
Instead of a delay of a few hours, hundreds of thousands of airline passengers lost their vacations or trips due to a knowingly false official weather forecast and have suffered delays of up to several days. The US economy took an unnecessary hit.
This is a major transportation scandal and, in my opinion, the Secretary of Transportation and White House should issue a statement that fake forecasts by the National Weather Service will not be tolerated.
Paul Hudson
President, Flyersrights.org
Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee

Dear FlyersRights:

He is totally right! [Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines]. How are US carriers supposed to compete with foreign carriers that are subsidized to the tune of 100s of millions???
KL
Dear KL, because when United CEO Oscar Munoz bemoans the Middle East big three airlines, he’s failing to acknowledge that government “subsidies” saved United Airlines after 9/11 and helped the carrier emerge from bankruptcy by taking over United’s pension obligations
 
We don’t dismiss that Gulf governments help prop up their home carriers, both directly and indirectly. Bit we do dismiss cries of “us good, them bad” coming from the USA when they are just as guilty.
 
Kendall Creighton
FlyersRights
Correction:
In last week’s newsletter, we credited AAA with the below tips – when we should have credited FlyersRights exclusively:
  • If your flight is canceled you can obtain a refund and take alternate transportation -if you do not want the accept the airlines’ rescheduled flight (which can take several days.)
  • 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  Flyersrights.org has petitioned to bring back this reciprocity rule).

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