FCC to hotels: WiFi blocking is illegal, a win for consumers

Travelers United was the lone consumer group to be part of the discussions concerning the blocking of WiFi signals by Marriott Corporation. In a series of articles by Ned Levi on our associated site, Consumer Traveler, our organization stood on the side of consumers. On January 27th, 2015 the FCC came down on the side of consumers and free access to the Internet.

Here is the FCC statement on their ruling.

In the 21st Century, Wi-Fi represents an essential on-ramp to the Internet. Personal Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots,” are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet. Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended. [47 U.S.C. § 333] The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawfulintentional interference.

In 2014, the Enforcement Bureau conducted an investigation, culminating with a Consent Decree, into this kind of unlawful activity by the operator of a resort hotel and convention center. In

By |January 28th, 2015|hotels|0 Comments|

Consumer leaders to airline CEOs: Cut airfares, now!

Prices are plummeting at gas pumps every day, yet airfares have remained steady or even increased over the past six months. As a result, consumer leaders, in a formal letter to airline CEOs, are calling on the 12 major US airline CEOs to slash airfares and do it now.

“We have seen six months of steadily dropping gas costs,” says Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.com, a 50,000-member airline passenger organization. “By any measure, the money saved by the airlines should be reflected in lower airfares.”

Airlines are the ones who clearly established the link between fuel and airfares. For the past half-a-decade while fuel costs were rising, airlines were increasing airfares and regularly releasing story after story about the dire need for fuel surcharges, baggage fees and other ancillary fees.

“Because of the big airline mergers, competition has been squeezed out of the system,” notes Charlie Leocha, chairman of Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance) who led consumer efforts against the American Airlines/US Air merger. “With only three network carriers, airlines now have the luxury of ignoring the market and maintaining high prices and low capacity.”

>“Our organizations are making it clear to Congress and the Department of Justice that the market is not working,” says Hudson. “Consumers

By |January 26th, 2015|Airline|0 Comments|

Airline traffic and capacity numbers for 2014

 

 

By |January 25th, 2015|Airline|0 Comments|
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    Top travel consumer groups challenge airline CEOs to lower airfares

Top travel consumer groups challenge airline CEOs to lower airfares

Two of the largest advocacy groups working to protect travelers have asked airlines to reduce airfares and fuel surcharges in light of the dramatic drop in jet fuel prices. Experts and pundits have proffered many explanations as why airlines are not passing these massive savings along to passengers. However, so far passengers have heard nothing from airlines in the form of an explanation.

While fuel prices were soaring, the airlines never missed any opportunity to tell passengers and the American public about their struggles with increasing fuel costs. Fuel costs were used as the excuse for “unbundling” airfares and instituting the unpleasant and still expanding world of baggage fee, reservation fees and scores of others.

It is time that airlines began explaining to the public about why they are refusing to lower airfares. Especially, since airlines worked so hard to explain why they were “forced” to raise these airfares when faced with the opposite situation.

We know that the airlines have received this letter. Travelers United has already received phone calls from the airlines about the missive.

Here is the letter sent to every airline CEO. This one was sent to Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines.
Doug Parker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
American Airlines

By |January 24th, 2015|Airline|0 Comments|
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    Delta Air Lines disputes DOT fines after misleading and deceiving consumers

Delta Air Lines disputes DOT fines after misleading and deceiving consumers

Delta Air Lines is contesting a fine imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The fine was imposed for failing to disclose code-share details about flights that they were selling. In other words, Delta would sell a flight across the Atlantic, let’s say, and a consumer would think they were buying a ticket on a Delta plane with a Delta pilot and a Delta crew, but they were actually purchasing a flight on Air France or KLM. Consumers were misled and deceived.

Or, Delta would allow domestic passengers on regional carriers to believe that they were actually flying on a Delta aircraft when, in fact, they were flying on a completely different airline. Many of these regional aircraft are dressed in Delta paint jobs and have Delta flight numbers, but are operated by a complete different airline.

According to DOT, “Code-sharing is a common industry practice in which an airline sells seats on flights using its own designator code, but the flights are operated by a separate airline.” Their fines imposed on Delta are “part of an ongoing effort by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office to ensure that airlines and ticket agents comply with the code-share disclosure rules that promote

Dear new Congress, Don’t forget travel competition

The Senate and House are in the midst of reorganization related to the changeover created by the last election. There are several issues that remain unresolved and some big ones coming up with the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration bill that will be considered later this year.

Norwegian Air International approval
Theoretically, Congress should remain out of this issue. This deals with a treaty that has already been signed and that has been negotiated between the US and many countries. The approval process is clear and should have been completed months ago according to the European Union.

The Norwegian Air International (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit should be approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). This airline will offer much needed competition for the current cabal of three international airline alliances that currently control more than 80 percent of the international market.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are major players in Oneworld, SkiTeam and Star Alliance. British Airways and Iberia are teamed with American. Air France/KLM is teamed with Delta, and Lufthansa is teamed with United Airlines.

Though airlines and their unions claim that the introduction of NAI into the mix of transatlantic flights would have

We condemn intimidation of journalists

Journalists around the world fight every day for the right to report the news without fear of reprisal. Travelers United condemns today’s violent attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris.

To airlines — In 2015, let competition thrive

The airline industry is doing everything it can to limit competition. It has refused to disclose ancillary fees to travel agents and the public during the act of purchasing a ticket, making comparison shopping impossible. Delta Air Lines is restricting the distribution of its airfares. And, the U.S. airlines are attempting to stop new international competition.

Comparison shopping and the free market need disclosure of complete prices
It would seem silly for an auto dealer to sell only the car chassis and body. Then, if consumers wanted to purchase tires or a steering wheel, they would have to go to the maker’s website and make another purchase, let alone figure out the price for the tires and the steering wheel. Today’s airline industry is similar. Airfares are sold by all travel agents and airfares can be compared easily, but that is not the complete package needed for travel.

Baggage charges that vary from airline to airline, seat reservation fees that vary from airline to airline and other extra fees are not disclosed by the airlines. So for a traveler to be able to compare the full cost of travel across airlines, the traveler would need to go airline to airline and figure

Tell us the whole truth about travel costs in 2015

There are a lot of lists of wishes for the coming year that are published at New Years. It seems everyone wants something or wants to change something. The turn of the calendar is used as a marker for change. But, Travelers United is not changing its wish list. Truth in advertising and making prices public is the bedrock of competition.

Truth is the New Years resolution that Travelers United works every day to fulfill with legislators, regulators and the travel industry honchos. Clear pricing allows travel consumers to comparison shop.

Is it too much to ask for a complete price and the rules for travel? All of travel seems to relish publishing prices that are not complete and creating complex rules that are buried in small-print (or in ALL CAPS) contracts and deep within websites.

Airlines are masters of obfuscation. First, airlines do not disclose all of their ancillary fees during the buying process. Next, they create a complex set of exemptions to these fees based on everything from what credit card is used for the purchase to the level of frequent flier program participation of each customer. Then as if that is not enough, airlines make their rules virtually impossible

Senate vote paves way for rollback of TSA Security Tax

Joint consumer and airline industry efforts mean $60 million in tax savings for consumers.

Travelers United, the leading consumer advocacy group for travelers, applauds the Senate passage of legislation to protect consumers from the continuing increases of government taxes and fees — in this case rolling back a portion of the 9/11 Security Tax imposed to fund the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Charlie Leocha, Chairman and co-founder of Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance) stated, “This Senate vote, together with the unanimous House vote, will save travelers an estimated $60 million in new taxes on airline travel.”

“More importantly,” he noted, “this effort is an example of how committed and disciplined consumer groups can work together with the airline association to foster win-win solutions to ever-increasing taxes and fees on travel.”

Travelers United and Airlines for America have worked steadfastly together through this entire legislative and regulatory process communicating with Senate and House budget negotiators, corresponding with the TSA Administrator and working with committee staff in Congress.

The 9/11 Security Tax was simplified as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 2013. A flat $5.60 fee per one-way trip was implemented, rather than the segment-based process that had been in effect prior