Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Airline torture

with 2 comments

In the NY Times, there’s a story about how an airline passenger became an advocate for passenger rights—including a video of a flight from hell, something becoming much too common. The story:

Like thousands of American Airlines passengers last Dec. 29, Kate Hanni and her family were stuck aboard a jet for hours, out on the runway. They were hungry, bored, mad and, in the case of Flight 1348, sick of the smell wafting through the cabin from the lavatories.

When the ordeal finally ended, some passengers from the 67 separate American flights — which each spent at least three hours stranded — e-mailed or called in their complaints to the airline. Some vented on blogs. Most grumbled and went about their business.

And the airline industry thought it would, too.

Ms. Hanni (pronounced HAN-eye), who said she had never even written a letter of complaint in her life, decided she would get a law passed making lengthy confinement on an airplane illegal.

“I was fuming,” she said. “It was imprisonment.”

She thus became an unlikely and, thus far, powerful adversary to an industry accustomed to riding out its major service lapses with only the lightest of government scrutiny.

A successful real estate agent, occasional rock ’n’ roll singer and mother of two, Ms. Hanni, 47, essentially put her life on hold to take on the airlines, leaning on her husband to earn more and spend more time looking after their children so she could battle the lobbying might of the airlines.

With the help of Internet chat boards, videos shot by stranded passengers and posted on YouTube and a growing network of volunteers, she has gathered 18,000 signatures on an online petition supporting what she calls a passengers’ bill of rights.

Her congressman, Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, quickly introduced legislation at her behest to force airlines to let passengers off stranded planes after three hours, with two 30-minute extensions at the pilot’s discretion. That is at least four hours less than the Hanni family spent on the runway in Austin, Tex.

Yesterday, Ms. Hanni staged what she called a “strand-in” near the Capitol in Washington, in a bid to keep up momentum for the get-off-the-plane legislation she wants enacted, over objections from the airline industry. A long tent was outfitted to resemble the interior of an airline, and wings were drawn on its exterior in duct tape. She offered long-shot invitations to members of Congress to experience confinement, replete with smelly portable toilets Ms. Hanni and fellow volunteers had rounded up. For the record, American said Flight 1348’s toilets never overflowed.

Ms. Hanni’s lobbying effort even has a soundtrack, of sorts. Her rock group, the Toasted Heads, rewrote lyrics to the 1965 Animals’ hit, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” to make it an anthem for stranded passengers. After American’s problems, JetBlue Airways had its own meltdown in February, with at least nine flights stuck on runways for six hours or more.

Moreover, June was the worst month this decade for taxi-out times — the time between leaving the gate and actually taking off — with 462 flights stuck on the ground for more than three hours, the Transportation Department reported. July was not as bad, with 276 flights stuck for more than three hours, though it was still one of the worst months since 2000. (August data is not yet available.)

Ms. Hanni’s group has pointed out that the taxi-out statistics capture only a minority of stranded flights. Diverted planes like Flight 1348 and flights that taxi out and sit for hours and then return to the terminal only to be canceled are not included.

More at the link. And the video:

Written by Leisureguy

19 September 2007 at 7:28 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I flew with Air Tran and had a similar exsperiance. I wish that I was as crafty as you! I love your slight humor admist all of your frustration! It is an outrage. Were you given any compensation for your trauma?

    skikttn

    20 September 2007 at 1:40 pm

  2. Luckily, I was not on that flight.The video was made by some poor soul who was on the flight, and is part of the story quoted and to be found at the link.

    LeisureGuy

    20 September 2007 at 1:46 pm


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