What all the recent United Airlines headlines may mean for travelers

Now that the dust has almost settled from United Airlines’ infamous passenger-expulsion incident, travelers are left with several important and largely unanswered questions about how this kerfuffle will change air travel — if it does at all. Read more “What all the recent United Airlines headlines may mean for travelers”

Watch your representatives vote for smaller airline seats

Here’s something you don’t get to see every day: Your elected representatives giving airlines a license to make the seats as small as they want, as long as they can pass a sham “safety evacuation” test.
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Will this be the year for passenger rights?

The travel industry doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation for keeping its promises.

That’s true not just of the lofty low-price guarantees that some hotels offer but hedge with lawyerly fine print. It also applies to something as seemingly straightforward as an airline sticking to its published schedule. (Check the contract; it isn’t required to.)

So travelers might be forgiven for having been a little skeptical last year when they were promised help in the form of long-overdue government regulation and laws that would compel airlines to treat them better and tell the truth about their fares.

Maybe it’s a statement about the process, but the most commented-upon proposed rule had practically nothing to do with enhancing consumer protections. It was a new regulation to limit the consumption of peanuts on a plane.

“It was really amazing,” said Cynthia Farina, a professor of law at Cornell University, which helped create the site Regulationroom.org to collect consumer comments. “We had more comments on that than on all the rest – combined.”
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What would you do? No refund for a canceled Air Baltic flight

Editor’s note: I’m introducing a new feature — “What would you do?” — today. Here’s how it works: At 7 a.m. Eastern time, I present a case and ask you how you’d solve it. You can take a poll or sound off in the comments. At 5 p.m., I’ll reveal the poll results and tell you how it was resolved.

Sirje Viise and a friend were scheduled to fly from Tallinn, Estonia to Berlin by way of Riga on Air Baltic. They had booked their airline tickets through Expedia.

But something happened between Estonia’s capital and Germany. Viise believes an overbooking problem led to her delay at a stopover in Riga, and after some haggling with ticket agents, she and her companion were instructed to buy two new tickets on EasyJet for 256 euro each.

European law is clear about the compensation to which Viise is entitled in an overbooking situation: 2,000 euros for the two delayed flights and a refund for her unused connecting flight. But Air Baltic, whose slogan, interestingly, is “We Care,” had other ideas.
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Tarmac delays ground the fight for passenger rights

tarmac delayThe approach of cold-weather season reminds me of tarmac delays.

Like the Northwest Airlines flights grounded during a 1999 blizzard at Detroit’s Metro Airport, leaving passengers without water or working toilets for more than seven hours. Or the JetBlue Airways customers stranded for nearly half a day during an ice storm in New York back in 2007.

But what if those were the only memories that cold weather evoked?

No skiing. No eggnog. No chestnuts roasting on the open fire. That would be absurd, wouldn’t it?

No more absurd than what has happened to the “passenger rights movement.” In the past few months, a series of headline-grabbing tarmac delays has helped a couple of influential lobbyists convince the media and a few elected officials that tarmac delays are the No. 1 passenger rights problem in America.
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