Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thanks to a consumer advocate, flying just got a little smoother

I can remember back when flying used to be fun. Not anymore. Now it’s a crap shoot: flight delays, flight cancellations, erupting volcanoes, missing luggage. Getting stranded in a strange city, trapped inside a motionless airplane or sleeping on the airport floor.

I have to admit, despite all the travel headaches I’ve dealt with, I never did anything more than complain about it. With summer travel season on the horizon, I am grateful that Californian Kate Hanni did more than complain after she and her family spent nine hours during the 2006 holiday travel season trapped in a grounded American Airlines jet. Ms. Hanni is a fine example of the saying “don’t just complain, do something about it.”

On Thursday, new U.S. Department of Transportation rules meant to protect travelers will go into effect thanks to Hanni who has been promoting the “three hour rule” since her 2006 ordeal. The new rules stipulate:
On domestic flights, airlines will be required to allow passengers off the plane if they've been sitting for more than three hours. Flight crews also will be required to keep the lavatories working, provide medical attention to anyone who needs it, and — once the delay hits the two-hour mark — supply adequate food and water.

Airlines that don't comply will face fines of more than $27,000 for each inconvenienced passenger.
This means a fine of more than $4.1 million for a Boeing 737 with 150 passengers, exceeding the profit made by continuing the flight.

Months before her negative travel experience, Hanni was sexually assaulted, causing her to vow to never be a victim again. Her determination to fight back created Flyersrights.Org. With over 25,000 members, FlyersRights is the largest U.S. non-profit organization representing airline passengers, and it claims to be the fastest growing grassroots coalition in history, collecting over 16,200 members in less than six months. Apparently quite a few people can relate to Hanni’s bad experience.

The conditions that Hanni and her family had to endure were harsh. According to FlyersRights.Org's Emergency Kit:
One of 121 flights diverted to regional airports that day, conditions on Hanni’s and other planes deteriorated to the point where police were called to quell riots, toilets overflowed, people with a variety of medical conditions were unable to get relief, and there was no food or water.
This treatment is despicable. The new transportation department rules are about more than just comfort. They are about airlines treating their customers with humanity. Airlines have fought the new rules by insisting that they will only lead to more flight cancellations and inconveniences for passengers, but we think that passenger’s well-being in an emergency should be airlines’ first consideration. We feel confident that the airlines will find ways to accommodate both their customers and their flight schedules. (I mean, how much worse can it possibly get?) Consumers should not be held hostage, literally or figuratively, to protect corporation’s bottom lines.

A negative experience can lead you to push for change like it did for Kate Hanni, or it can inspire you to join a movement. Either way, it’s this grassroots action that improves society. Think health care, think drunk driving, think tax reform. Citizen action makes a difference and we have people like Kate Hanni to inspire us to get involved or to even get out in front.


Blogger Kate Hanni said...

Thank you Kathleen!


6:27 PM  

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