We’ll always have Paris and other useful advice

The terrorist attack in Paris was our number one story this week — specifically, Ned Levi’s useful advice on how to stay safe on your next international trip.
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Comfort hacks for flights that cramp your style

Air travel can be a humiliating, dehumanizing and even torturous experience — at least according to my e-mail inbox.

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Maybe first class passengers aren’t so special after all

One piece of conventional wisdom has gone unchallenged during our ongoing debate about class, privilege and human dignity in air travel: that the elites sitting in the big seats are subsidizing everyone else’s low fares.

Maybe it’s time to challenge that conventional wisdom.
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Is it time to take a stand against shrinking airline seats?

It’s not your imagination: Economy class seats on airplanes are shrinking.
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The truth about airline lies (can you handle it?)

The busiest summer for air travel is almost over.

But for many passengers, this flying season was the lyin’ season. Week after week, readers crammed my inbox with accusations that a flight attendant or customer service agent misrepresented the truth when they traveled.
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The DOT hears our SOS

It turns out that all the negative things that happened to air travelers in 2010 – invasive body scans, multiplying fees, erupting volcanoes – were offset by at least one positive change: an increasingly passenger-friendly Transportation Department.

The federal government introduced new rules to help air travelers and enforced the regulations already on the books with a fervor unlike any administration in recent memory.

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leading the first consumer-centered DOT in the history of commercial aviation,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel interests. “And he’s doing so in a very thoughtful and sophisticated manner.”

In the spring, the agency imposed a controversial rule that effectively limited tarmac delays to three hours. A series of proposed consumer protection initiatives that would, among other things, strengthen airlines’ customer service requirements, force carriers to display airfares and optional fees to allow better side-by-side price comparisons, and boost fines for overbooking were proposed over the summer and are expected to become finalized in early 2011. If approved, they could change the way Americans fly more than any government action since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.
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Ray LaHood: “We’re in the era of full disclosure”

In part two of their interview with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Christopher Elliott and Charlie Leocha explore the new tarmac-delay restrictions for airlines and pending rules for the disclosure of surcharges, such as baggage fees, that have spread through the airline industry. Here’s the first part.

The number of enforcement actions are up at the department’s Aviation Enforcement Office. Did you go down there and light a fire under them?

I think that people in the department understood when I came on board that safety was number one and we were going to look out for consumers. People knew I was a member of Congress and that I was co-sponsor of the Passenger Bill of Rights. Once we put out the tarmac rule, that sent a message out all over these two buildings and all over the FAA buildings who we care about.
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