Entries in Passengers (9)


Discount Airline CEO Pondering 'Standing Room Only' Flights

John Foxx/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Ryanair, a no-frills airline based in Ireland that has already made headlines for contemplating pay toilets for its flights, has a new idea for the cost-conscious flier: standing room only flights.

According to the U.K. Telegraph, RyanAir CEO Micahel O'Leary says he could get flights down to a few bucks if he makes the plan a reality.

"If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you," he told the paper.

O'Leary commented, "The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it's been populated by people who think it's this wondrous sexual experience; that it's like James Bond and wonderful and we'll all be flying first class when really it's just a bloody bus with wings.  Most people just want to get from A to B.  You don't want to pay £500 for a flight."

The CEO explained the cheap flight plan wouldn't be dangerous.

"We're not talking about areas of huge turbulence around Europe," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baggage Fees Cost Passengers a Record $1.7B

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. airlines rang up more than $1.7 billion in baggage fees in the first six months of the year, the most ever collected in that period.

Delta Airlines collected the most in baggage fees with nearly $430 million from January to June, according to a report the Bureau of Transportation released Tuesday. United Airlines came in second with $351 million in baggage fees.


From carry-on to oversized items, U.S. airliners are raking in record revenues, a rare bright spot in an industry now suffering turbulence from soaring oil prices and rising labor costs.

The hardest hit has been American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.  American is locked in a bitter labor dispute with pilots, which has contributed to delays, cancellations and fury among passengers.  Earlier this month, American was forced to cancel 300 flights in one week.

But American’s $25 luggage fee has helped the ailing airline rake in more than $288 million so far this year, according to the Bureau of Transportation, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“The travelers who haven’t gotten used to these fees need to get used to them quickly because this is a huge stream of revenue for the airline industry and it is not going anywhere,” says Genevieve Shaw Brown, ABC News’ travel and lifestyle editor.  “If anything, there will be more fees in the future.”

While most passengers find baggage fees costly, there is one airline that is taking customer concerns to heart.  Southwest Airlines is promoting its “bags fly free” policy as a way to gain business.  Southwest will allow customers to check two bags per passenger for free.  JetBlue allows one free bag per passenger.

U.S. airlines also collected an additional $1.3 billion in fees for canceling or changing a reservation during the first six months of the year, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Air Travelers Prefer Relaxation to Work on Flights

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A lot of people don’t like to leave business projects up in the air, so they’ll try to catch up on work while flying.

But that’s not how most airline passengers spend their time during trips, according to Chicago ground transportation company GO Airport Express.

In a survey of 640 people nationwide, 32 percent of travelers said their top activity on flights is reading for fun, and 14 percent of respondents say they enjoy sleeping.

Twelve percent will use their time flipping through business books and similar publications.  One in ten actually get down to doing work.

Surprisingly, only seven percent occupy themselves with in-flight movies.  Playing computer games, engaging strangers in conversation or doing nothing at all tied at two percent each.

Relaxing and pursuing leisure activities is clearly more important to airline passengers than doing work but GO Airport Express predicts that could flip as low-cost or free in-flight WiFi is offered by more carriers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Airbus to Offer Extra-Wide Seats on New Planes

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images(BLAGNAC, France) -- Airbus is trying to make the friendly skies a bit more comfortable for large -- and encumbered -- people, and more profitable for U.S. airlines.

The main subsidiary of European aerospace giant Eads is now offering extra-wide seats on its new A320 passenger aircraft, according to Agence-France Presse.

Each A320 jet will now offer two 20-inch-wide seats on each side of the aisle, rather than three of its standard 18-inch-wide seats. Boeing, Airbus’ U.S. rival, has 17-inch-wide seats on its 737s.

Airbus said that if U.S. airlines charged extra for the roomier seats, they could make as much as $3 million extra during a 15-year period.

Zuzana Hrnkova, Airbus’ aircraft interiors director, told reporters that the new seats were not just for overweight fliers.

“Mothers with children may be ready to pay a little more in order to be able to keep their babies in their laps,” Hrnkova said, according to AFP. “Large football players may be interested.”

Airbus’ announcement is timely. Obesity rates are on the rise. About 34 percent of adults are currently obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number is expected to hit 42 percent by 2030.

And this month an overweight passenger who said in May 2011 a Southwest gate agent had told her she was “too fat to fly” is now suing the company for discrimination.

Brandon Macsata, an advocate for passengers’ rights and a leader in the “fat acceptance” movement, told ABC News earlier this month that his group had proposed airlines providing a row of extra-wide eats for larger passengers at a higher price, which they could buy voluntarily.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Frequent Fliers Sue American Airlines Over Loss of Unlimited Pass

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In 1987, American Airlines was struggling and desperate for money, so they started offering an unlimited lifetime airpass for $350,000, hoping for an infusion of cash.  Just 66 people purchased the AAirpass before the program was discontinued, but for those lucky few who got on board early, it was quite the deal.

AAirpass holders became American Airline VIPs, with virtually unlimited first class flight options for themselves and a companion.

Steve Rothstein, one such airpass holder, estimates he flew from his home in Chicago to New York a thousand times, Los Angeles and San Francisco 500 times, Paris and Sydney 80 times, all without paying a dime and racking up frequent flier miles.  He says he thought nothing of flying strangers with him or picking up a friend in Los Angeles and heading to Paris for a quick visit to the Louvre.

That was all before American cracked down, canceling his airpass three years ago, after an investigation found the airline was losing millions of dollars to these extreme frequent fliers.  The airline said Rothstein had abused the system by booking flights he never planned to use.

But Rothstein says he didn’t do anything wrong, and he’s suing the airline, hoping to get his pass back.

“A deal’s a deal.  I’ve made deals in business, which I’ve regretted five minutes later.  But a deal’s a deal,” he told ABC News’ John Berman.

Another AAirpass user, Jacques Vroom, who was also investigated and lost his pass, is also suing the airline.

In a statement to ABC News, American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Sanderson says cases like Rothstein’s and Vroom’s are an “extremely small percentage of our overall AAirpass accounts, but fraudulent activity costs all of our customers money.”

The litigation over whether this was abuse of the system or a bad business plan is on hold for now, since American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Too Fat To Fly' Passenger Sues Southwest Airlines For 'Discriminatory Actions'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Kenlie Tiggeman, the overweight passenger who garnered national attention last May after she claimed a Southwest gate agent told her she was "too fat to fly," is now suing the airline.

Tiggeman, who lives in New Orleans and blogs about weight loss on her website,, filed an injunction against Southwest in district court on April 20, alleging that the Southwest agents "did not follow their company policy and chose to discriminate, humiliate and embarrass" her in front of "airport onlookers," and that the airline uses "discriminatory actions...toward obese customers."

Southwest currently has a Customers of Size policy, which requires passengers to buy a second seat if they can't fit between the armrests. Southwest's seats measure 17 inches across.

Tiggeman said she is not seeking monetary damages from the airline and filed the injunction application pro se, without legal representation. She said she wants an industry standard to be put in place for flyers who have to buy a second seat, including rules so that it is no longer up to gate attendants to decide whether or not an obese passenger has to purchase a second seat.

"If you're telling me I have to buy two seats, you should tell me at the point of purchase, not the day I'm flying when I check in at the terminal," she said.

Tiggeman said she was horrified last May when a Southwest Airlines gate agent told her to buy a second seat.

"The gate agent came up to me and he asked me how much I weighed, what size clothes I wore," Tiggeman said. "He said that I was too fat to fly, that I would need an additional seat, and he was really sort of crass about the whole thing."

At the time, Tiggeman said she weighed between "240 and 300 pounds."

"There was no privacy," she continued. "He didn't know what the policy was. So he actually brought in a supervisor as well who didn't know."

After the incident, Tiggeman said a Southwest executive contacted her to apologize, refunded her ticket and offered her flight vouchers, which she accepted. But last November, Tiggeman said she was again told by a Southwest agent that she was too fat to fly.

In a statement to Nightline, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said she was aware of Tiggeman's blog post describing the suit, but hadn't confirmed the filing with the airline's legal department.

Tiggeman's crusade is just a small part in what feels like a war that has erupted between the airlines and their passengers. Many charge for everything from onboard snacks, to blankets and pillows, to excess baggage and body weight. Just Thursday, Spirit Airlines announced that passengers may have to pay up to $100 for a carry-on, meaning bags that have to go in the overhead compartment and are checked in at the gate. Bags that can fit under the seat are still free.

But if you weigh more, should you pay more? Peter Singer, a bio-ethics professor at Princeton University, raised this simple but inflammatory question.

"It's not about treating obese people badly," he said. "It's about people paying for the costs that they are imposing on the airline or in general."

Singer is a mega-commuter, flying from his home in Melbourne, Australia, to the States. He thinks that on a flight from, say, Melbourne to New York, an obese person should face a roughly $30 surcharge.

"The airline is just one example that I've chosen," Singer said. "Buses and trains may have to provide wider seats. Hospitals have to have stronger beds, even having to have extra-large refrigerators for their morgues. So it's not hostility to obesity. It's just saying, where people are paying, why should other people who are lighter be subsidizing those who are heavier?"

Pressing forward with her lawsuit, Kenlie Tiggeman said she is not an advocate for obesity, but wants to be treated with respect.

"Shaming people isn't the right way to do it, then you'll just have a lot of depressed people," she said. "I don't care if I have to pay more, just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Checkpoint Change: What Passengers Are Leaving Behind

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There was considerable change at the Transportation Security Administration last year.

To be exact, there was $409,085.56 in loose change left behind at security checkpoints by fliers. The figure was first reported by USA Today.

To put that in perspective, that’s enough quarters, dimes and pennies to purchase two full-body scanners, with some change leftover.

And in fact, the TSA tells ABC News that in 2005 Congress gave the agency permission to use unclaimed cash for security operations.

“TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed,” the agency said in a statement.

“Unclaimed money, typically consisting of loose coins passengers remove from their pockets, is documented and turned into the TSA financial office,” it said.

New York’s JFK International Airport saw the biggest chunk of change left behind: $46,918.06, enough to buy a nice luxury car and drive to your destination.

The smallest haul came from American Samoa’s Pago Pago International Airport, where $5.51 was left behind, enough to pay for about 20 percent of your checked bag fee.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ticket Tax Expires, But Airlines Raise Prices, Punt to IRS on Refunds

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Airlines seem to be taking an "it's not our problem" approach to refunding passengers for taxes that are no longer authorized to be collected after Congress failed to pass legislation funding the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thus far, only one major airline has announced it will directly offer a refund of the 7.5 percent excise tax and a per-segment flat fee.  On a $500 round-trip connecting ticket, a customer would be due $42.30.  If the flight leaves the U.S., add another $32.60 for a total of $74.90.

After the midnight Friday deadline passed for re-authorization of the FAA, almost 4,000 FAA employees have reportedly been furloughed and federal air transportation excise taxes have expired.

The Internal Revenue Service clarified on Wednesday that tickets purchased on or before July 22 for travel on or after July 23 may be entitled to the tax refund.

Jetblue is the only major airline accepting requests for ticket tax refunds.  A message on its website instructs customers who are flying within the next seven days to contact the company while all others should check back at a later time.  Other major airlines are directing customers to the IRS.

The IRS' announcement came after the major airlines acknowledged they increased their fares concurrent with the expired taxes, preventing fliers from reaping any savings on tickets purchased on or after July 23.  Virgin America used the so-called "tax holiday" for an email marketing campaign on July 23 despite reportedly increasing its fares in lockstep with the other airlines.

That Virgin America email marketing campaign stated, "Take a tax holiday. Grab a seat with fewer federal taxes for a limited time only."

Virgin America said it immediately passed on the exact equivalent discount as soon as the expiration happened at 11:59pm on Friday night through Sunday night and promoted the discount to guests during that time.

"But, given the dynamic nature of fares, with the Monday morning fare changes, some fares held the discount, some went up and some went down," Abby Lunardini, Virgin America spokeswoman, said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W. VA, chairman of the committee on commerce, science and transportation, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee chairwoman, wrote a letter on Tuesday to the Air Transport Association (ATA) chairman, Richard Anderson, who is also the CEO of Delta Airlines, saying they were "deeply perplexed by the industry's pocketing of passenger tax revenue."

"Most of ATA members have elected not to pass the savings along to consumers through reduced ticket prices, but rather have decided to increase the base fare of airline tickets," the Senators wrote.  "We urge the nation's airlines to put all of the profits that they are making from the lapse of the aviation taxes into an escrow account so that they can be transferred back into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund when Congress reinstates the taxes."

Despite the request from the tax agency and the Senators, most airlines are directing customers to the IRS to request a refund.  The IRS said that "passengers who are unable to obtain a refund from the airline may obtain a refund by submitting a claim to the IRS."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American Airlines Stops Selling Tickets on Orbitz

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/ American Airlines(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- American Airlines is trying to reshape the way airline tickets are sold, pulling all its flights off the online booking site Orbitz.  The move comes less than a week after Delta pulled its tickets off three smaller travel sites: CheapOair, and One Travel.

Any tickets previously sold on these sites are still valid.

"The move does make things a bit more difficult for consumers in terms of comparison shopping, since they will have to remember to search American separately if using Orbitz," said Anne Banas, executive editor of the travel website SmarterTravel.  "However, my advice would be to use a meta-search engine like Bing Travel or Kayak that searches multiple sites -- including Orbitz and American -- at the same time."

The moves come just as Google is trying to buy the airfare search software company ITA for $700 million, an acquisition that is being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible anti-trust violations.

While ITA is not a household name, it has some of the most powerful airfare search technologies, often sold to third parties.  Google dominates the overall search market and has transformed areas -- think of Google shopping -- that it has entered.  Competitors say they fear that if Google buys ITA, it would control airfare searches and give preferential treatment to the highest-bidding advertiser.

So why would American and Delta make their tickets harder to find?  Money.  An airline has to pay a fee to any third-party site, such as Travelocity, Expedia or Orbitz, that sells a seat on one of its planes.  Those fees can be as high as $4 per flight segment, according to Robert Mann, an airline consultant and president of R.W. Mann & Company.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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