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Is The New "Passenger Bill Of Rights" Working?

Is The New "Passenger Bill Of Rights" Working?

Jan 12th, 2011, 08:21 PM
  #1  
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Is The New "Passenger Bill Of Rights" Working?

With the recent winter storms affecting the US South and Northeast, I wonder if the new "Passenger Bill Of Rights" is working.

While I have not read or heard any stories of passengers being held hostages by airlines, I have seen hundreds of flights proactively canceled leaving thousands of passengers stranded at airports.

Has the new rules helped or hurt passengers in the recent round of storms? I believe the new rules handicap the airlines and in the end delay passengers more than before the rules were enacted. Your thoughts.
DMBTraveler is offline  
Jan 13th, 2011, 04:58 AM
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Like you said, it's working as intended - fewer passengers getting stranded. The ones with passengers stranded are planes that arrived into JFK after Christmas from overseas and didn't get a gate. Those flights were not covered by the new rule.

And also as you said, the airline did as they've "promised". Pre-emptively cancel more flights than before. There are plenty of complaints, and with so much cancellation, the phone lines were all jammed. I think we'll see the airlines improve their website in the future so that passengers can rebook themselves online rather than having to call.
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Jan 13th, 2011, 05:03 AM
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Given a choice of being stuck on grounded plane or at an airport, I would pick the airport any day.
gail is offline  
Jan 13th, 2011, 05:33 AM
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gail - It is a lot more complex than that, and there are arguments on both sides. Nobody wants to be stranded on a plane on the tarmac, but the options may be:

- stuck on the ground for 3 hours but then able to get to your destination, vs flight cancelled and you're rebooked 3 days later for your vacation.

- stuck at a foreign airport for several days vs a chance to get home for Christmas.

etc, etc...

The matter is that after NW stranded passengers on the tarmac for many hours, and particularly after Jetblue's Valentine's Day Massacre a few years ago, airlines and their executive have been much more vigilant about stranding passengers, and things have already been improving. For one, they just don't want that bad press. And many airports have made plans to get stairs to the planes to get passengers off without returning the planes to the gate.

So, DMB's question is a serious one about whether the new rules actually help passengers in the big picture. I don't know, but it's good for discussion.
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Jan 13th, 2011, 06:06 AM
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It IS complex having been stranded recently on CA plane for several hours without apology or comp I was was happy to have the new rules in force.The Transportation Department has been considering expanding the rule to include international flights and the strandings could force the agency to act.
Turkish Airlines Flight 1 from Istanbul was particularly bad after a flight of about 10 hours, the plane sat on the tarmac for more than six hours before it could unload.

"After the original hour and a half, it became pandemonium,” she said. “People were walking around, moaning, yelling. Children were screaming. People were complaining about children screaming.”

Kate Hanni, executive director of Flyers Rights, a passenger advocacy group that she formed after she was stuck for many hours on a tarmac in 2006, said, “This J.F.K. event, I’m almost certain, will be the tipping point.” After Ms. Hanni’s experience, a succession of similar, highly publicized ordeals led to the federal rule for domestic flights.

Ms. Hanni said that new federal rules should include an extension of the tarmac waiting penalties to international flights.

So it IS working for me domestically anyway

albeit with many more cancellations not great

but preferable to long TarMac delays waits for me...
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Jan 13th, 2011, 06:45 AM
  #6  
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International flights are definitely a more complicated issue. There must be a US gov't approved secure area and transportation mechanism (bus) to bring, and if necessary, hold international passengers - they cannot simply be bused to any terminal and dropped off like domestic pax can.

The US Gov't is quite particular about immigration and customs processes.

I can't see forcing airlines to a rule of the supporting infrastructure isn't in place.
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Jan 13th, 2011, 07:20 AM
  #7  
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Good discussions. Personally I think the rules need to be tweaked to allow airlines more operational flexibility.

The $27,000 fine per passenger is a bit absurd. As mentioned, airlines do not want the bad press and nothing is gained by stranding passengers on an airplane.

Personally, I prefer to be delayed 3-4 hours instead of 3-4 days and having my vacation ruined.
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Jan 14th, 2011, 11:51 PM
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rk - I knew it was a serious and complex question - but my answer still stands. And since the rule applies only to domestic flights, that means that the original flight could not have been more than 6 hours - and most likely would be much less. In addition to the obvious physical discomforts of being stuck on a plane for a lengthy period of time, that then would give most people a variety of options - wait for scheduled flight to eventually leave, find alternate or combination transportation arrangements to destination, cancel trip - while being stuck on plane takes all the control and decision making out of the hands of the traveler. As you know, much of the US has several airports within a circle of a few hours drive - and often weather at one does not equal weather at another - plus ground transportation options are possible for some travel.

Certainly the rule might have resulted in more flights being cancelled in anticipation of a weather event - but having just experienced 2 Boston blizzards in less than 3 weeks - both times with family members either in transit or with scheduled flight - in both cases it increased options and delays for both travelers were reasonable considering conditions - but only because they were not trapped on a plane and creative plans could be implemented.

I would like to see an added provision to Bill of Rights that if a flight is delayed more than x number of hours (not sure what x is) for any reason, the passenger has the right of a refund - while I believe now it is only true if flight is cancelled. This might balance out the pre-cancellation syndrome and lengthy runway sits. As well as allowing many to explore and exercise alternate travel plans.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 06:29 AM
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Gail,

Yes, the rule for the most part only applies to domestic flights however many domestic flights have connections to international ones.

It is nice to have travel options but you are not going to readily drive from New York to Seattle.

My problem with the rule is that it seems to imply that airlines deliberately hold their passengers hostage or deliberately want to inconvenience them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Stuck passengers and airplanes disrupt airline operations and cause them to lose money. Airlines estimate the last two storms will cost them over $150 million in losses.

A balance needs to be found. For one, passengers have to be more understanding and patient when serious weather is effecting their departure or arrival airport. Recently, I was in MSP during a recent snow storm which we could all witness from the boarding area. Yet, I saw many passengers asking the gate agent, why are we late or is the flight going to be late?

When the last storm hit the Boston area I am sure not many drivers got to their destination on time. The same logic applies to airplanes but on a large and maybe more complex scale.

A refund if your flight is delayed beyond a certain amount of time can be an option but only if the delay is a direct fault of the airline. Most of these delays are the result of bad weather.

How the airlines handle the bad weather is where the problems arise. For now, it seems they are taking the "safe" and less costly route by just cancelling flights. I am not sure this is the best option as many travel plans are ruined without the options few like you might have had in your situation.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 07:11 AM
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Yes - passengers can be jerks - including my Florida-bound brother stranded in Boston after Christmas. His 6 PM flight was cancelled at 3 PM - equipment was in Boston and they could likely have delayed departure by 3-4 hours and gotten him out of here. So in his case, he lost out - and it could have been a real problem if he was, for example, trying to catch a cruise rather than just get back to work.

But on the other hand, options we had were to drive to Providence or Manchester - both of which had some flights that actually left. Or, the option we chose when unable to reach JetBlue by phone - which was to grab a weird connection on Southwest booking on-line - and hope to deal with JetBlue and a refund later. (Which worked very well - prompting my suggestion that refunds be made available so that booking an alternate on-line becomes an option).

My geographical knowledge is farily good - so I know one is not likely to drive from New York to Seattle - but my suggestion that those not trapped on the tarmac then can make alternate plans would, in that case, include taking ground tranportation to an alternate NYC airport, or PHL or DCA or IAD - and then flying into Seattle.

I think the root of the problem is that airfares truly are too low for airlines to make money operating in a reasonable fashion and they must do all sorts of things to continue to operate. I have said here before that I would willingly fly an airline charging perhaps 20% more to get a seat larger than a sardine can and even a minimal amount of service (such as existed perhaps 10+ years ago). But there does not seem to be much public support for this.
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Jan 19th, 2011, 11:21 AM
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Gail,

Nice response. I imagine most of the time you have decent travel experiences. It seems that you have the attitude that can still make flying reasonably pleasant even when "the sky is falling".

Your last paragraph makes a valid point that most passengers seem to miss or conveniently ignore. We are getting what we pay for

I am not sure that higher airfares are the complete answer but passengers are flying a lot cheaper than the did years ago when for most, airline service was better. I think there is some correlation.

However, today there is still a "$99 airfare" mentality where many believe airlines should just provide services without the ability to make a profit.

Gordon Bethune (Former CO CEO) once said he would gladly provide every passenger a steak dinner on board if they were willing to pay for it!
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Jan 20th, 2011, 07:00 PM
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Gail

I think the trick to finding more room at the most economical price will involve booking (for example) 3 seats for 2 passengers. For singles, that might need finding an 'air buddy' - but it could work as the poor passenger's 'business class.' Air New Zealand's "Skycouch" is a particularly innovative approach.

But you are right about one thing: forget waiting for the general population to think about value as well as price.
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Feb 9th, 2011, 09:51 AM
  #13  
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With all the recent snow storms, I am glad to hear there are no "horror stories" about passengers being held as hostages on airplane.

Since airline are proactively canceling flights, I wonder if the view of the "Passenger Bill of Rights" is changing. Is not being able to travel for 2-3 days better than a 3-4 hour delay?

With more passengers now stranded (being held hostage) in airports, should airports now be fined for not providing reasonable passenger conveniences or accomodations?
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Feb 15th, 2011, 06:36 AM
  #14  
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DMB, For me, I agree with those who'd prefer being stranded, even if it's for a couple of days, over being held hostage on a plane. And, I think we're the majority here.

The bottom line is that the airlines had YEARS to solve this problem on their own without any government involvement, and not only did they do NOTHING; they actively fought any efforts to address this situation. Thus, they have no one to blame but themselves.
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Feb 15th, 2011, 07:25 AM
  #15  
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LT,

That is true to a certain extent. However, in my opinion the new rule is an over stretch ($27,000 per passenger for a violation) and needs to be revisited.

Canceling hundreds of flights and stranding passengers at airports is not the answer. When you are stuck in Europe or New York for 3 days and your vacation is ruined, you may which you had the option to take a 3 hour delay instead of 3 days.
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Feb 15th, 2011, 10:54 PM
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Has anyone done a computer simulation to determine approximately how the 3-hour rule has affected passengers? I'm sure some flights have been preemptively cancelled, thus causing unfortunate delays, but without some type of analysis, it's hard to know how big the problem is, or what the likely equation in terms of ultimate delay is if a flight is preemptively cancelled.

It would be no trivial task to set up such a simulation, though.
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Feb 16th, 2011, 02:40 AM
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DMB - but what if you are stranded on the plane AND then taken back to terminal and had your flight cancelled - certainly most would take a 3-hour delay over a 3-day delay, but the choice is not always so simple. (And that does still happen - DH was on plane for 2 hours on tarmac in Charlotte 2 weeks ago, plane then went back to gate, they sat another hour, then everyone got off plane and flight was cancelled).
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Feb 16th, 2011, 06:32 AM
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WillTravel,

I like your thinking

I think the new rule has handicapped airlines more than necessary and ultimately the passengers it was meant to benefit lose.

Business meetings, vacations and other plans that are ruined because of canceled flights that would normally be operated if the rules were not so ridiculous.

No one can control the weather and the effects it has on our everday lives. For years airlines have operated through major weather situations and have done a pretty good job.

Now, we have all become "travel victims" and demand rights.

Any business should recognize that customers are their life-line and should treat them accordingly. I just do not buy into the notion that airlines deliberately mistreat their customers.

It is a unique business with unique challenges especially when it comes to weather which no one can control.
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Feb 16th, 2011, 06:58 AM
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Gail,

I agree the choice is not always that simple but I can tell you, airlines always prefer and work hard to get you to your destination.

Your canceled or delayed flight disrupts it's operation and it's source of making money.

During recent storms in US, airlines lost hundreds of millions (plus 600 million) because of canceled flights. Many of which would have probably operated before the new rules went into effect. I am sure any business would rather make hundreds of millions instead of losing it.

DH, situation was unfortunate but if you check out airline cancellation stats you will see that less than two percent get canceled on a regular basis.

For example, at www.flightaware.com it shows 151 flight cancellations for today. However, on a daily basis American, Delta, United and Continental operate over 10,000 flights including their regional carriers.

If today's cancellations came from these four carriers that's less than two percent.

A 98% performance for a business or in any situation would be remarkable except the same rules do not seem to apply to the airlines
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Feb 16th, 2011, 07:31 AM
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I fly on business maybe 1-2 times/week, mostly on legs that are 1-2hrs.
My attendance of meetings, workshops etc. is scheduled tight around the airlines' timetables, and I rarely allow for more than 60-90 minutes between estimated time of arrival and my appointments. That works in appr. 90 percent of all cases.

If the flight is delayed by more than 2 hours, my trip has usually become useless, and I go back to the office.
So, yes, for me as the customer whose company pays 3-4 times the airfare for an unrestricted peak time eco ticket, getting stranded ON the plane is the worst of all cases. I don't need to be Brussels one hour AFTER my meeting has ended.

It might be different when business travellers fly in the day before a meeting from L.A. to NYC or fly to a convention in Kuala Lumpur and would rather spend 3hrs on a plane than get the whole trip cancelled.
Or for tourists who try to get back after a vacation trip.
But I assume that even in the US many biz trips are quite short (1-2hrs) and not necessarily coast to coast.
So, no, it does not make the majority of business travellers more happy to sit 3 hrs on a plane than to cancel the trip.

And 98% performance is not remarkable.
If your car had 98% performance it would be break down more than full seven days per year. Would you call that a good car?
If your supermarket had a 98% performance, 2 out of each 100 steaks in the freezer would be rotten. Would you shop there?
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