Friday, October 23, 2009

Tarmac delays ground the fight for passenger rights

Source: Washington Post

Tarmac delays ground the fight for passenger rights
By Christopher Elliott
Sunday, October 25, 2009

The 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.

Worse, they've convinced many travelers that tarmac delays are the only important passenger rights issue.

Don't believe me? Pull up any recent story that mentions a passenger's bill of rights, and it will inevitably refer to a proposal that would require a plane to turn back after a three-hour ground delay. I happen to disagree that such legislation would help anyone or that it could even be properly enforced, but that's beside the point.

The bigger question is whether this tunnel vision is helping the cause of airline passengers -- and how it might affect your next flight.

I think it goes without saying that other, far more important passenger issues are being overlooked. But I'll say it anyway: We're missing a lot. I asked author and consumer advocate Edward Hasbrouck to name his hot-button passenger rights issues, and alas, tarmac delays didn't make the list. What did? Truth in advertising, problems with federal preemption and failure to enforce existing consumer laws.

"Airlines routinely engage in practices that would constitute fraud if engaged in by any other business," he told me. For example, they sell tickets on partner airlines, giving the appearance that they are operating a flight, which is referred to as code-sharing.

Federal preemption of consumer protection laws, which allows airlines to ignore state consumer laws and consumer protection agencies, is another worry. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 opened that loophole, "and it has been a disaster for consumers," says Hasbrouck.

The U.S. Transportation Department's lack of involvement in consumer protection also ranks as a favorite, and it's an area of concern for me as a reader advocate. The way Hasbrouck sees it, the department is staffed by devout believers in a hands-off approach toward regulation and, specifically, enforcing consumer protections. "Those attitudes have got to go, which is unlikely to happen unless the people at the DOT get firm new marching orders from their superiors, either from the secretary of transportation or President Obama," he says.

Unlike tarmac delays, which affect a tiny fraction of air travelers, these issues factor prominently into everyone's flight. And that they are being ignored raises the question of who really benefits from the popular emphasis on aircraft delays, apart from a few media-savvy tarmac-delay activists.

I'm willing to bet that my friends in the airline industry, who insist that they oppose the new turn-back law, are quietly pleased that the tarmac lobby has hijacked the passenger rights cause. The movement is now conveniently contained, holding sparsely attended news conferences and pep rallies for passenger rights "stakeholders" in the Rayburn House Office Building.

That's not to say that the tarmac troopers don't have a valid point. There's no excuse for keeping a plane waiting for hours without giving passengers food or water. Anyone who has endured an extended delay on a plane can be forgiven for thinking it's the only thing that matters.

In the meantime, what do you do if you're stuck on a parked aircraft? Oddly, the media reports I've seen have fixated on the likelihood that a turn-back law will be passed -- it has a snowball's chance, in case you were wondering -- but have skipped the part where they help us actually fix the problem.

I had an enlightening conversation with Deborah McElroy, the executive vice president in charge of policy and external affairs at the Airports Council International-North America, an airport trade group, about the remedies available to stranded passengers. There are not many.

I've been asked whether there's an easy way off a parked plane, such as calling 911 and complaining that you're being held prisoner. McElroy said emergency calls are routed to local law enforcement agencies, which may pass your complaint along to airport police, but neither is likely to have the authority to force a jet to return. "Only the airport's federal security director, who is a [Transportation Security Administration] employee, has the legal right to order the plane back to the gate," she told me. You may be better off asking a crew member for help or, failing that, calling the airline.

Would a turn-back rule change anything? It might, she said. It might not. Meaning that the true cost of a passenger's bill of rights may not be just an unenforceable law, but also a long period of distraction from the truly important issues facing passengers.

Incident: Jetblue E190 at Bermuda on Oct 22nd 2009, flaps problem

Source The Aviation Herald

Incident: Jetblue E190 at Bermuda on Oct 22nd 2009, flaps problem
By Simon Hradecky, created Thursday, Oct 22nd 2009 22:26Z, last updated Thursday, Oct 22nd 2009 23:30Z

A Jetblue Embraer ERJ-190, registration N229JB performing flight B6-1703 from Boston,MA (USA) to Bermuda (Bermuda) with 79 people on board, was on approach to Bermuda's runway 12 descending through 3000 feet, when the crew reported they had a flaps indication, aborted the approach and climbed back to 5000 feet for troubleshooting. The crew could not resolve the problem and decided - after consulting with maintenance and dispatch - to divert to New York's JFK airport about 10 minutes later. While climbing back to cruise level the crew declared emergency requesting most direct routing indicating about 2:15 hours of fuel remaining at that point and the longest runway 31L/13R at JFK indicating, they'd have no altitude restriction for the cruise back requesting FL380. The airplane climbed back to FL380 and reached New York about 110 minutes later. JFK changed all other approaches from runway 31L to a VOR/DME approach runway 22L in order to facilitate the Jetblue Embraer heading for a LOC approach 31L with 4900lbs of fuel remaining. The crew subsequently performed a visual approach runway 31L, landed safely and vacated the runway without needing further assistance.

TXKF 221955Z 06007KT 020V080 9999 FEW033 24/16 Q1019
TXKF 221855Z 04007KT 010V070 9999 FEW030 24/16 Q1019
TXKF 221755Z 04007KT 340V080 9999 FEW030 24/16 Q1019
TXKF 221655Z 03009KT 360V060 9999 FEW030 24/16 Q1020
TXKF 221555Z 03009KT 9999 FEW030 24/16 Q1021
TXKF 221455Z 02010KT 9999 FEW030 24/16 Q1021

Monday, August 4, 2008

JetBlue to Charge for Blankets, Pillows

Source -

JetBlue to Charge for Blankets, Pillows

JetBlue Planes [276]

JetBlue Airways Corp. said Monday it is now charging customers for pillows and blankets.

The carrier has done away with the recycled blankets and pillows used on its flights, and has started offering an "eco-friendly" travel blanket and pillow that can be purchased for $7 on flights longer than two hours. The pair come in a kit with a $5 coupon to home furnishings retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.

The carrier claims the pillow and blanket feature a fabric technology, developed by CleanBrands LLC, that blocks pesky critters like dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet dander.

JetBlue (JBLU: 5.45, +0.19, +3.61%) already offers free "Snooze Kits" on overnight flights from the West that include an eyeshade and ear plugs.

But the blanket and pillow kit is the latest in a string of a la carte items the company says are providing a revenue boost to help offset the soaring price of jet fuel.

A JetBlue spokeswoman declined to predict how much the sale of these kits will bring in, saying that the company only provides revenue details for specific items in its quarterly earnings conference calls.

The carrier said last month it expects to collect about $40 million from customers buying seats with extra leg room this year. Its $15 fee for a second checked bag is expected to translate into about $20 million in additional revenue. A ticket change fee, which doubled to $100 in the second quarter, is part of a "basket of fee changes" expected to produce about $50 million in extra revenue in 2008.

Shares rose 22 cents, or 4.2%, to $5.48 in midday trading.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From the AP - US Airways pilots: We're pressured to cut fuel

US Airways pilots: We're pressured to cut fuel

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pilots union for US Airways said Wednesday the airline is pressuring pilots to use less fuel than they feel is safe in order to save money.

US Airways Captain James Ray, a spokesman for the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents the airline's 5,200 pilots, said eight senior pilots and the union have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The union also paid for a full-page ad in Wednesday's USA Today addressed to "our valued passengers." The ad accuses the airline of "a program of intimidation to pressure your captain to reduce fuel loads."

Ray said soaring jet fuel prices have sent all the airlines scrambling to find ways to cut the weight of airliners because the heavier the plane, the more fuel the plane burns. US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., has recently removed movie players, redesigned its meal carts and replaced glassware with plastic to cut weight.

Jet fuel has surpassed labor as the airline industry's greatest expense.

But US Airways recently crossed the line when it ordered eight pilots who requested "an extra 10 to 15 minutes worth of fuel" to attend training sessions, or "check rides," that could put their pilot licenses in jeopardy, Ray said. The pilots were supposed to report for their training sessions Wednesday, he said.

"We feel they're trying to set an example," Ray said. "Captains shouldn't be intimidated into thinking, 'If I say I need this fuel, they may send me for a check ride.' ... Cutting peanuts off the plane, that's one thing. But cutting a captain's fuel level below his comfort, that's another thing."

US Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant said the decision to bring in the eight pilots for extra training was not meant to be punitive. "That's totally not true," he said.

During the past few years, the carrier has required its planes to carry enough fuel to pad their flight times by 60 to 90 minutes, Durrant said.

"These eight pilots have routinely been above the 60 to 90 minute range. It just behooves us as a company to talk to these guys, figure out what they're seeing that we're not," Durrant said.

FAA regulations require aircraft to carry enough fuel to reach their destination and an alternate destination, plus 45 minutes worth of fuel, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said. Also, pilots have the final authority on whether their flight should have extra fuel.

Brown said she is unaware of any specific complaints filed by US Airways pilots or their union, but FAA has been monitoring reports of "minimum fuel loads" at some airports.

"We don't see any evidence right now that there are violations of the regulation," Brown said.

US Airways has studied how much fuel its planes really need to carry, Durrant said. "The heavier an aircraft is, the more fuel it burns, and one of the heaviest portions of an aircraft can be fuel," he said.

US Airways is also buying more fuel efficient aircraft and cutting inefficient routes from its network. Still, an average roundtrip flight costs about $299 worth of fuel per passenger, company officials said.

Associated Press writer Chris Kahn reported from Phoenix.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


FUCK YOU JET BLUE! Charlie's not even FLYING on JetBlue today and you still manage to ruin my fucking day. Charlie has been gone for THREE WEEKS. THREE DAMNED WEEKS. That's a long time for us.

Since you asked, I'll tell you. Charlie has been in Vienna for the Eurocup. His soccer team (Chinatown Soccer Club) release a shoe with Adidas and they were flown to Europe to celebrate the release of the shoe.

ANYWAY. Today he was slated to fly back from NY to LA on VIRGIN AMERICA (I LOVE YOU VA, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.) And JetBlue (fuck you, again) is holding a plane full of hostages on the runway at JFK. Charlie is on a plane BEHIND the JetBlue (oh, i forgot, FUCK YOU!) plane. So now, there's no telling when me and my lover with be reunited.

Thanks again JetBlue. Whenever I have something really beautiful planned for my boyfriend and I, you never hesitate to intercede and fuck shit up.

Tell us why JetBlue, why am I hearing that there is a plane on the JFK runway with a stuck parking brake? Why did you even let that plane leave the gate? I question how a broken parking brake was able to pass the routine checks they have before a plane is allowed to leave. Or did it NOT pass, (but like on MY fateful day with Jetblue,) did someone make a decision to overlook it to not suffer the financial loss of losing an entire flight?

Anyway, fuck you again if I haven't said it enough.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

WARNING! JetBlue Founder Starting Airline in Brazil

Brasilians, run like the wind. No, really, run. Avoid this man's airplane at any cost. And Brasilians, avoid being employed by this ANTI-UNION company. West Jet and JetBlue, both are non-unionized unlike most other carriers.


Court Strikes Down NY's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

Court Strikes Down NY's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

Posted by Candice M. Giove at 1:29 PM, March 25, 2008 - From the Village Voice blog

So much for justice for the JetBlue passengers stranded on the JFK tarmac for 10 hours without food. A federal appeals court has struck down the New York Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, which would have required airline carriers to provide basic amenities like food, water, fresh air and clean toilets to passengers trapped on the tarmac in excess of three hours.

The Airline Transport Association of America, a trade group representing a number of carriers, lodged this second challenge to the New York State law earlier this month, and successfully argued that regulation should remain in the hands of the federal government and shouldn’t be handled on a state-by-state basis.

"If New York's view regarding the scope of its regulatory authority carried the day, another state could be free to enact a law prohibiting the service of soda on flights departing from its airports, while another could require allergen-free food options on its outbound flights, unraveling the centralized federal framework for air travel," the court wrote.

"This clear and decisive ruling sends a strong message to other states that are considering similar legislation,” the trade group said in a statement.

For Queens Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, who authored the bill, today’s decision was a major let-down for passengers. "The court's decision is a disappointment to anyone who has suffered at the hands of airlines that care more about profits than their customers," he said in a statement.

"This is far from over,” he added. “While this decision is a setback to passengers' rights, I will continue fighting until someone in a position of authority does the right thing and stands up to protect the flying public."

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Hi Ya'll,

Long time no talk. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you. It was about this time last year that I was about 8 hours in to a hostage crisis with Jet Blue. Since then, Charlie's had back surgery, I've developed a fear of Blue Chips (I kid,) we moved to a new city and I've fallen in love with Virgin America. Yes, I still fly you, JetBlue. Sometimes there's just no way around it.

Today was the last day you could legally file a lawsuit against JetBlue Corp for the false imprisonment of the passengers of the 9 planes stranded on the tarmac at JFK on February 14, 2007. I hope if that is the route you are going to pursue, that you've done it before today, when the statue of limitations expires. I'm still getting media offers so it looks like the story hasn't died yet and with any luck, this will never, ever happen again. JetBlue can take thier voucher worth the amount you purchased your roundtrip ticket and shove it.


Charlie and I are going to relive our first Valentine's day by sitting tonight for 10.5 hours. But this year we're going to do it in the privacy of our house watching the Blade Runner Box set. All five discs, 583 minutes, or 9.6 hours. We'd still have to kill an hour after that to be true to our anniversary, but I'm sure we'll come up with SOMETHIGN to do. At least we'll have food. And the freedom to walk out the house. And use the bathroom. And not have a crying baby sitting right behind me. (You were really cute when you weren't crying.)


PS-IF you are interested in pursuing legal action, and I'm not telling you to, cos it's your individual choice, please contact me at I've retained a lawyer who is familiar with this case and many like it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Personal Travelling

For the love of God, YES, I still travel on JetBlue. I'm not turning down free tickets AND as Neeleman said in the investor relations call that I posted before, since most people won't be cashing in on their vouchers, they shouldn't have to worry about the bottom line (I'm heavily paraphrasing, listen to it if you want to hear exactly what he says.)

So in some ass backwards way, NOT using their vouchers would help them and hurt me, all for what? Principle? I'm not holier than thou and I'm cheap, which is why I started traveling them in the first place, so there's where I am with the whole not traveling JetBlue hypocrisy stance.

BUT, as I said once before, it's all about price shopping for me now....My monthly August trip is with Continental, which is the favorite of a reporter who interviewed me, who shall remain nameless for the sake of him remaining unbiased in his reporting.

I AM MORE THAN SUPER DUPER THRILLED TO ANNOUNCE THAT I AM FLYING ON VIRGIN AMERICA IN SEPTEMBER! I mentioned months ago that they were caught up the FAA Red tape and despite being ready for months, were still grounded for issues that have to do with nationality. Too much to go into here, but THEY ARE NOW AIRBORNE!

In October, I am back to flying on JetBlue because I am 8 measly points away from my True Blue Reward. BUT AFTER THE AWARD, NO MORE, unless they are remarkably cheaper than the rest. (I would like to say in JetBlue's defense, they have been very accommodating to my demands as of late. For that, thanks ya'll.)

I am very excited to tell you all about my Virgin America experience once I fly with them Thus far, I had a really wonderful phone experience with a Patrick in Burlingame. After being hung up on numerous time by the at-home moms in middle America who work for no benefits for JetBlue, I am happy just to have someone on the phone who sounds like they love where they work.

Rumor has it!!!

OK, so it's an old rumor. But I thought I'd post it. Sent via email:

...Lots going on behind the scenes here...and you KNOW that the Jet Blue board actually staged
a coup in May to oust Neeleman, who with whatever shortcomings he had was the heart and soul of the of the place....rumor has it he dumped all his stock and reinvested in WestJet, his last airline....