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Unhappy Holidays Ahead

Sept. 29,2015

Last week, the DailyKos reran one of their top, most commented articles, which was forwarded numerous times to FlyersRights. Let’s review:

Few experiences are as universal to Americans as the shared degradation and misery of flying on our nation’s air carriers. These corporate behemoths have somehow managed to wrap up everything wrong with this country and present it to us as a package deal: income inequality, corporate indifference, dwindling services, automation and skyrocketing prices all combined to make flying a tortuous chore rather than a pleasure, particularly in the last ten years.  It’s no different than fiscal austerity, really–just a calculated effort to push the limits of greed for a tiny minority to the point where Americans won’t tolerate any more, then convincing us that such a drastically diminished quality of life is the “new normal.” 
A universially shared experience? How did we get to this place? 
One reason may be that our elected representatives in Congress don’t know what constitutants have to endure – they don’t fly coach and don’t experience TSA hassles. In fact, they’re flying high at at taxpayer expense:
(2009): Sens. John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer each spent more than $140,000 in taxpayer money on travel in the first half of the fiscal year.
Cornyn racked up more than $38,000 on a St. Michaels, Md. retreat for 59 staffers and by taking expensive, multicity charter flights throughout his home state of Texas.
Schumer ran up the second-highest bill by routinely flying private charters to cities in New York served by commercial airlines.
(2009) “The Federal Election Commission issued a new ruling that allows U.S. senators to fly in private planes at commercial rates.
In fact, there is no more pampered class of air traveler than a member of Congress:

At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, they have their own special parking spaces-right up close to the terminal that they don’t have to pay for.
Being a member of Congress also means never having to rush to catch a flight. The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights.
Most fly a lot, and many fly first class.
Of course the public continues to suffer. For many of us, travel is necessary for our livelihood, or -with the holidays around the corner – the only way to see family.
With cabin capacity at record highs the airlines have abandoned all pretenses of what the public thinks of them. Every plane will be packed regardless – guaranteed. Which helps explain Delta’s new “economy minus” class – where anything that might administer comfort is eliminated: food, pillows, blankets, space – and then resold to you as an extra fee.
The New Yorker says a big source of misery is the much-reviled fee system.

Perhaps the most notorious is the 200 dollar “change fee” that FlyersRights is fighting against, (signour petition here). But many fees are usurious, particularly for those who book refundable tickets. There can be a thousand dollar price difference between refundable and non-refundable tickets. 

The term ‘calculated misery’  also popped this year. It describes the cost of a fee for misery avoidance, like the Economy Plus fee for a few extra inches of legroom.

Even the process of boarding is ruined by the fee system, as airlines play the status game. So now the process of boarding has many layers of misery added, along with the embarrassingly harsh portrayal of income inequality.

Thrown into the mix is the invariable, unexplained flight delays or abrupt cancellations attributed to (often non-existent) “weather” or “maintenance” problems. Passengers are then trapped in the airport that could pass for a Third-World country.

Your Letters!


 with your experience and concerns on helicopter safety. Here’s what you said:


Dear FlyersRights:
Thanks for continuing to publish what you do.
I have not had a bad experience – but my father was a USAF rescue pilot.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam.
He never considered flying commercially even though he could.
He thought, until the day we lost him to the effects of Agent Orange, that Choppers were too complicated to be properly maintained by commercial concerns.
Not my words but trust the source, as people say.
Dear FlyersRights:

In August 1999, I went to change planes on DFW with Delta. When I walked up to the gate, it was “blacked” out. I walked over to the next gate and asked nicely about the flight which I was supposed to leave on in 40 minutes. The gate agent was perturbed and told me that the flight was cancelled and I would have to wait in the ticket line outside of security and said “Get lost, I’m busy” and he “waived me off” with his hand. I was so mad, I began ventilating. Fortunately I was good health however someone who wasn’t in good health could of had a heart attack or a stroke. 
How many businesses would of tolerated an employee treating a customer like that? I had mentioned this to a doctor a few years later and asked her “Can you imagine if one of office staff treated a patient like that”? Her reply was, she would of fired that person on the spot.
The next day I called Delta about this incident and all I got was an offer for a credit. One Delta employee said that he was having a bad day and took it out on you. I replied that this happened at 6:15 AM.
Another point:
The airlines seem to have forgotten that the American Taxpayer “bailed” them out after 9/11 for $ 35 billion dollars and we are still treated as “cattle”. It’s high time we reminded the airlines about this and tell if another 9/11 happens, God forbid they may not get a “bailout” if the flying passengers are to be treated with such disregard. Baggage charges, cramped seats and over booking. Enough is enough.
Dear FlyersRights:
Your [helicopter report] underscores the “aviation/industrial complex” –
bottom line, corporations collude with government where the citizen
passenger loses.
Dear FlyersRights:

The fixed winged pilots I flew with stated they’d NEVER take a helicopter job, much less ride in one.  Due to military crashes and deaths, they thought it was eventual suicide.  That was 50 years ago, wonder how many have changed their minds since?
Dear FlyersRights:

A few comments on your recent article on helicopter safety. The figure
that helicopters are 85 times more dangerous than automobiles is based on
fatalities per hour of operation. The preferred way to look at
transportation fatalities is fatalities per passenger mile. Because
helicopters move much faster than cars, the fatality ratio is much lower
than 85. Also helicopters may carry more people on average than cars on
average. However, helicopters on average don’t move 85 times faster than
cars, and most carry only a few passengers, so they probably are more
dangerous than automobiles even on a passenger mile basis. I agree that
full safety regulations should be applied to all helicopters that carry
passengers for a fee.
Davis, CA
Dear FlyersRights:

I saw a quote once – a helicopter is 100k parts flying in close formation – all trying to kill you.

Dear FlyersRights:
I’m a private pilot and someone very interested in preserving the rights of
the traveling public.
I read with great concern your email, Unfit for Flight, and wonder about the
conclusion you’ve drawn. “The reason helicopters remain so dangerous is that
the FAA created a giant loophole that allows manufacturers to ignore safety

* 2005 East River crash was found due to a takeoff contrary to the winds and
being overweight in passengers and fuel. No fatalities. Not a helicopter
design issue but a pilot problem. What does this have to do with the
manufacturer or regulations?
* 2011 Nevada 5x fatality- inadequate maintenance of the helicopter…improper
nut, lack of pin, inadequate inspection. Again, not a manufacturer ignoring
safety measures.
* 2007 March 8 4x fatality- NTSB probable cause is failure of maintenance
personnel to tighten control servo, and operator’s failure to ensure
maintenance program was executed by regulation and
* 2007 March 11 fatality- failure of the tail rotor fitting due to
manufacturing defect. This was a defect in the way the helicopter was built,
not in its design or safety measures.

The four examples you portray are graphic and disturbing, and would serve to
rile up readers, but have nothing to do with manufactures ignoring safety
measures. For the accidents with the greatest fatalities I bet you could have
wrapped those passengers in helmets, bubble wrap, and whatever kinds of seat
belts and modifications you want, but with a catastrophic failure of vital
mechanisms the accidents still would have been unsurvivable.

What you call for is aircraft built to regulation being retrofitted to newer
regulation. This is an expensive proposition where costs will be transferred
to the flying public. The four examples you give would not have benefited
from increased safety measures since the causes lay in pilot error, lack of
maintenance, or manufacturing defect.

Yes airline traveling is statistically safer than riding in a helicopter.
There are deaths bungee jumping, riding horses, and in cars driving to these
various activities people enjoy. There is inherent risk involved in many
things. Flying privately carries about the same risk as riding a motorcycle,
yet you write “The reason helicopters remain so dangerous…” as though the
industry kills by the millions. That is inflammatory language that is unfair
to the flying industry and will undermine your attempt to improve it.

Increased regulation will not serve to negate risk. But increased regulation
can create increased expense, making flight prohibitively expensive to many
customers, and lead to further cost-cutting measures such as a lack of
adequate maintenance, flight operators paying less salary and hiring less
experienced pilots, or operators trying to recoup expenses by overloading
passengers into aircraft.

I appreciate when you advocate for passenger rights such as seat pitch, more
reasonable security measures, or reasonable treatment during delays. I fear
your hyperbole and your attempts to influence regulation based upon fear
mongering and ignorance or manipulation of the facts.


Dear WR:
We all take vacations and the idea of splurging on a helicopter tour is enticing, whether it’s Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon or Manhattan. A luxury in the context of a vacation that may seem tempting. This is also about keeping your family safe. 
Helicopter traffic is the wild west of aviation. Helicopters are subject to much less scrutiny than other types of aircraft – this is a fact.  
The FAA can’t kick this can down the road any longer. They must take a serious look a the potential dangers imposed.
Kendall Creighton
Dear FlyersRights:
I’m dismayed by the nonsense of the airlines. Instead of their spending millions lobbying Congress, the airlines could spend their money and effort on improving the quality of their product; e.g. improving customer service and maintenance. 
Regarding false claims of weather delays, the public should have access to the actual cause of delays. Perhaps the airport control tower would be the best source of that information. 
Airlines should be punished by the government for their dishonesty if they lie about delays or other matters.

Dear FlyersRights:

I think the space issue should be based on the airplane being viewed as a room. How many people can legally be in the room 65 feet long and 6 feet wide without it being a fire hazard? In many planes, I was sure a sign should read, “Occupancy by more than 55 people is prohibited.” Iagree with other commenters, I never fly if I can get there any other way. I drive 6K a year just so I do not have to fly . Bring back the railroads.

Dear DK, 

Please see the FlyersRights seat space petition – just docketed last week on the FAA website:
We urge everyone to comment on this important legislation!
Our Acclaim:


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Do you how desperately this country needs a Passengers’ Bill of Rights? Which allows for passengers to be treated like humans even when things don’t go so well? Airlines prefer you to sit entire flights on the tarmacs during delays with no food or water, or simply denying access to information.

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