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Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

KGB AIRWAYS: PART EIGHT (END)

In History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 24, 2014 at 12:00 am

So you’ve decided to sue the airline you believe wronged you.

One option is to do so in small claims court.

A plus is you don’t need an attorney. In fact, you’re barred from bringing in an attorney. You represent yourself, which means you don’t have to pay an attorney–either up-front or at the end of the case.

Another plus: It will cost you far less to represent yourself than it will cost the airline to send a representative.

If you file in California and the airline is headquartered in New York, it will be expensive for them to send a rep to attend the proceedings. If the airline fails to send someone as its representative–which is highly unlikely–it loses by default.

A minus is that you may not be the confrontational type.  You may also feel intimidated by the legal process–and afraid of looking like an idiot if you lose.

Another minus is that each state sets a different amount you can win in damages.

To learn about the rules applying to small claims courts in your state, consult the following link:

Click here: 50 State Overview of Small Claims Rules | Nolo.com.

A second option is to take your case to civil court.

A plus is that the dollar-amount you can obtain at this level is far higher than in small-claims court.

A minus is that you’ll definitely want to retain an attorney.

True, you can legally represent yourself.  But aviation law is complex.  The airline will definitely have an attorney, so if you don’t, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.

If you can find an attorney willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay him unless you win.  His fee will then come out of your settlement amount.

Another minus: If you can’t find an attorney willing to take your case on this basis, you’ll have to pay him by the hour, after first putting up a retainer fee, which can be quite large.

A third minus is that the courts are clogged with cases, and it can take months or even years before yours will be heard.

And remember: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.  In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court.

And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.

Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict.  Such appeals can go on for literally years.

On a more far-reaching basis, you can demand that your Congressional representatives support passenger rights through legislation.

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • A steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • Another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.)

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes.  In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents had made clear their rage about high-priced cable fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands:

  1. If enough voters make their specific demands known; and
  2. If those voters make clear that ignoring their demands will guarantee defeat at the next election.

There are consumer rights organizations now pressing for vitally-needed passenger protections.  These organizations need support–both in terms of members and money.

Only then can they counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.

An example is Flyers Rights, which can be reached at: FlyersRights.ORG – Largest Non-Profit Airline Consumer Organization.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations.

Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger.  It’s with further enriching their key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the airline couldn’t care less about them.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 21, 2014 at 12:22 am

You can’t get the airline to take your complaint seriously but you don’t want to file a lawsuit.

So now what do you do?

You could file a complaint with one or more consumer complaint websites.  Just remember:

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin unless he pays you money and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.
  • And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

Review the guidelines offered in Part Six of this series on how to safely craft your letter/email.

Below is a partial list of consumer complaint websites.  No endorsement is implied by this listing.  It’s offered simply to illustrate the variety of such websites available.

Your first impulse will probably be to file your complaint with a a website like one of these.

Don’t do it.

Instead, try to resolve your problem (assuming it can be resolved) with the airline.

Why?  Two reasons:

  1. You may be able to obtain what you want at that level, without having to do anything more.
  2. If you don’t give the airline the chance to address your grievance, you will be accused of pursuing a vendetta.  This will be especially true if you later sue the airline.

Use websites like these as a fallback option–in case you’re unable to can’t resolve your problem with the airlines.

And, frankly, there’s a good chance you won’t.

In its September 3, 2009 issue, Time magazine warned that calling the airlines’ customer complaint lines would likely prove a waste of time.

The major carriers have, quietly, made it steadily more difficult for customers to reach a person with their complaints. “The airlines don’t want to talk to their  customers,” says John Tschohl, a consultant to businesses on customer service.

Even the few airlines that still have customer-service numbers bury them deep within their websites.  Finding them is often as much a matter of luck as persistence.

So as advised in Part Five of this series:

  • Don’t waste your time with the Customer Service line.
  • Go directly to the topmost official(s) of the airline and make it clear why it’s in their best interests to resolve your problem. 
  • Then, if you can’t find a workable solution, file your complaint with as many consumer-protection websites as possible.

You can also file complaints with one or more federal agencies that hold jurisdiction over the airlines.

If your complaint is safety related, address it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at:

Assistant Administrator for System Safety ASY-100

Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591

Phone: 1-866-835-5322

Click here: Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline

If your complaint involves security, direct it to the Transportation Safety Adminisration (TSA).

You can reach this by phone at 866-289-9673 or by email at tsa-contactcenter@dhs.gov.

A final option is to sue the airline.

For most people, bringing in a lawyer is like bringing up the heavy artillery.  When should you do so?

Christopher Elliott, author, consumer advocate and journalist, outlines “five times when you should consider skipping the complaints process and going straight to court:

  1. When they’re playing games.
  2. When they’ve broken a contract.
  3. When they’re being dishonest.
  4. When they’re ignoring you.
  5. When they aren’t listening to reason.

Elliott’s webpage contains a wealth of practical advice for those who’ve had their fill of airline arrogance.  It can be accessed thus:

Click here: See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ‘em.

Yet another must-read for those wondering if they should file suit:

Click here: Lies the Airlines Tell Us – ABC News

Assuming you decide to sue, there are three ways to do this:

  1. In small claims court.
  2. In regular civil court as an individual claimant.
  3. As part of a class-action lawsuit.

Each approach has its own series of pluses and minuses.  I’ll explore these in my next–and final–part of this series.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART SIX (OF EIGHT)

In Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 20, 2014 at 12:15 am

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.

Even in our video-oriented society, the written word still carries far greater weight than the spoken one.  A document can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

If you cringe at writing it yourself, you can ask someone else to write it for you.  But if s/he lacks excellent judgment and literary skills, you’ll be no better-off.

At best, the letter will prove ineffective and be ignored.  At worst, it could open you to charges of libel and/or extortion.

And even if the person can write an effective letter on your behalf, chances are you’ll have to pay for that service.

If you decide to write the letter yourself, you’ll find highly effective advice in Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, by Ellen Phillips.

Product Details

Click here: Amazon.com: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results (9780375701207): E

Among the subjects she covers–in detail–are:

  • Who to write to, what to say, what to ask for.
  • The names and addresses of over 600 major companies.
  • How to draft personal petitions covering everything from tenant-landlord disputes to workman’s compensation.
  • What steps to take to avoid litigation.

My own tips for writing a successful complaint letter are:

  • Remove any vulgar or profane words. 
  • Don’t make sweeping accusations: “Your agency is a waste.” 
  • Stick to facts you know can be proved: The who, what, when, where, how and why of reporting.
  • Don’t attribute motives to people you’ve had problems with.  You don’t know why someone did what he did.
  • Cite the names and titles of any airline employees who (1) can support your claim, or (2) were witnesses to the incident.

  • Show how the failure of the official to address your problem reflects badly on the company: “This is not the level of service your ads would lead potential customers to expect.”
  • Be reasonable and realistic in what you ask for. 
  • If you want reimbursement for expenses you had to make (such as hotel lodgings) owing to the airline’s fault, then provide copies of receipts.
  • Emphasize your desire to resolve the complaint amicably and privately within the company.
  • If necessary, note any regulatory agencies that can make life rough for the company if your complaint isn’t resolved. 
  • Cite the applicable law(s) under which it can be sued: “According to the Passenger Bill of Rights….”
  • Make certain the airline knows you expect a reply within a certain length of time: “I would appreciate your response within the next 10 business days.”  Otherwise they’ll feel they can afford to ignore your complaint.
  • If there is a specific action the airline can take to redress your complaint, be sure to mention it.  (You can be so angry when making a complaint that you forget to say what you want the company to do to resolve it.)

Of course, your overture(s) may be ignored.  Or you might feel the airline has not made a good-faith effort to compensate you.

In either case, you have two more courses of action to pursue.

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private lawsuit.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s far easier to spread the word about companies that mistreat their customers.

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is no longer n advertising slogan (even at United Airlines, which popularized it).  But airlines spend millions of dollars a year on selling just that image of themselves.

So anything that threatens to throw mud on that image is guaranteed to set off alarm-bells at corporate headquarters.  Especially if that mud is well-deserved.

An easy way to avenge airline mistreatment is to make full use of a wide array of consumer-opinion websites.

It’s important to check out each website carefully to increase your chances of having your complaint resolved.

  • Most websites simply offer a forum to vent your spleen.
  • Others promise to take various forms of action on your behalf–such as directing your complaint to the airline or a government agency.
  • Others offer to refer your complaint to an attorney.
  • Many of these are free.
  • Others charge a nominal fee (such as $5) for posting your complaint.
  • Some complaint websites are run by the Federal Government–such as those of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Some are run by individual states–such as the Office of the California Attorney General.
  • The major airlines provide “file a complaint” pages on their websites.

WARNING:

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.

And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FIVE (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

Have a complaint against an airline–but don’t want to waste your time with low-level Customer Service reps?

Good.  You’ve just learned what is probably the single most important lesson in bureaucracy-busting: If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it. This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

But who are these people? And how do you track them down?

You start by realizing that every major airline has a website. And that website can usually be counted on to list the top honchos of the company.

Even if it doesn’t, you can usually obtain this information on the Internet. Go to “google” and type: “[Name of airline] board of directors.”

This should arm you with a series of websites providing

  • the name of the CEO;
  • the company’s mailing address;
  • its phone number for reaching its top executives; and
  • its website and/or email address.

Below are listed

  • the names of the CEOs of the major United States airlines
  • their mailing addresses
  • their corporate phone numbers and (where given)
  • their email addresses.

But the corporate world is filled with men (and a few women) who are highly skilled at moving up–by moving others out.  So keep in mind that the names provided below will not be permanent.

Check out the appropriate websites to obtain the latest information before writing that letter and/or making that call.

Too many airlines treat their passengers like captives of Vladimir Putin’s KGB

Send out a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” and you’ll instantly be branded as a lightweight.   This only shows that you were too lazy/stupid to find out who holds power in the organization.

Whereas a well-written letter addressed to the key decision maker will instantly warn top executives: “Take this person seriously.”

Now, the airlines:

DELTA AIRLINES

Richard H. Anderson – Chief Executive Officer

Edward H. Bastian – President

Email:   Email us

Phone: (404) 715-2600

Mail:

Delta Air Lines, Inc.
1030 Delta Blvd.
Atlanta, Georgia 30354

Click here: Delta Air Lines Newsroom – Leadership

AMERICAN AIRLINES

William Douglas ParkerChairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corporation / American Airlines Group, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas.

John W. Bachmann - Senior Partner, Edward Jones, St. Louis, Missouri.

Mail:

P.O. Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Phone: (817) 963-1234

Click here: American Airlines Board of Directors

UNITED AIRLINES

Jeffery A. Smisek – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Continental Holdings, Inc.

Oscar Munoz – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, CSX Corporation

Shareholders and other interested parties may contact the United Continental Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors as a whole, or any individual member, by one of the following means:

  1. writing to the Board of Directors, United Continental Holdings, Inc., c/o the Corporate Secretary’s Office, HDQLD, 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601; or
  2. by emailing the Board of Directors at UALBoard@united.com

If neither of these methods seems to work, try these:

Mail:
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

Phone (general): (800) (800) 864-8331

Phone Investor Relations: (312) 997-8610

United Continental Holdings, Inc. – Investor Relations – Board of Directors

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Joel C. Peterson – Independent Chairman of the Board of Jetblue Airways Corporation.

David Barger – President, Chief Executive Officer, Director of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

Mark D. Powers – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, Treasurer of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

JetBlue Airways Corporation Corporate Office | Headquarters
118-29 Queens Blvd.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Phone:  (718) 286-7900
Toll Free: (800) 538-2583

http://www.jetblue.com

AIRTRAN

AirTran Airways is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  Thus, complaints against Airtran should be directed to the top executives of Southwest.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Gary C. Kelly – Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Southwest Airlines, the parent company for AirTran

Douglas H. Brooks – Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters
Physical Address:
Southwest Airlines
2702 Love Field Drive
Dallas, Texas 75235
Telephone: (214) 792-4223

Click here: Southwest Airlines Investor Relations – Board of Directors

US AIRWAYS

Robert Isom – Chief Executive Officer

Bruce Lakefield – Vice Chairman of the Board, President, CEO

Derek Kerr – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President

Corporate Contact Information:

Mailing address:

US Airways
4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Corporate headquarters:

111 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Phone: (480) 693-0800  7 AM – 5 PM Monday – Friday

Daniel E. Cravens
Director,
Investor Relations
US Airways
111 West Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Phone: 480.693.1227

E-mail: Click here: US Airways | Compliments/complaints

Click here: US Airways | Investor relations

ALASKA AIRLINES

William S. Ayer – Chairman

Bradley D. Tilden – President and CEO

Brandon Pederson – Chief Financial Officer

Corporate Offices:

P.O. Box 68900
Seattle, WA 98168

Phone: (206-433-3200

Click here: Executive Leadership – Alaska Airlines

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES

In 2010, Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines.  Direct all inquiries and complaints to United Airlines, whose corporate information is given above.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FOUR (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Social commentary on November 18, 2014 at 12:05 am

The concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Under Federal law, as enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration, airline passengers have only the following guaranteed rights:

If your flight is delayed (such as by bad weather) and you’re stuck on the tarnac:

  • Tarnac delays cannot exceed three hours. You can leave the plane if you choose after that.
  • Food and water must be available after the plane has been stuck on the tarnac for two hours.
  • The airline must service toilets, keep air conditioning on, and keep trash cans clean.

In addition, the U.S. government mandates these “rights” for air travelers:

  1. Compensation when you’re bumped due to overbooking –and for no other reason.
  2. An airline must accept lost/damaged baggage liability up to $3,000 in depreciated value per passenger for a domestic flight (limits on international flights are either about $1,700 or $635, depending on which rule applies).

Beyond those, all you can claim is what’s in each airline’s “contract of carriage.” Those contracts are–naturally–heavily biased toward airlines, not customers.

Given that the law–and the Congressmen who create it–is still largely owned by the airlines, you, as a customer, are forced to make do with the weapons at hand.

These essentially boil down to two:

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private or class-action lawsuit.

In both cases, it’s best to first contact the highest-ranking officials in the airline company.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They have the most to lose, and
  2. They have the power to redress your complaint.

You can try to reach the CEO or one of his assistants during the time of the incident.  But, most likely, this will happen afterwards.

If a mini-Hitler of an airline steward decides to eject you because s/he doesn’t like your clothes or request for help, there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you physically resist, you will almost certainly be arrested and charged with some version of domestic terrorism.  You’ll be shipped off to jail and forced to defend yourself against the bogus charge.

Even if the authorities decide to not prosecute, you’ll have to spend at least several hundred dollars on legal representation.

And, of course, the airlines won’t care.  They won’t be spending a dime on your prosecution–that will be paid for by the local U.S. Attorney’s (federal prosecutor’s) office.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wisely advised in The Prince:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.  One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

This is definitely the time to take on the trappings of a fox.  However painful it is to swallow the insult at the time it’s given, don’t give the airlines an excuse to have you arrested.

Take your revenge afterward.  That’s what musician Dave Carroll did.

Carroll alleged that, in 2008, he and fellow passengers saw United Airlines’ baggage-handling crew throwing guitars on the tarmac in Chicago O’Hare.  He arrived at Omaha, Nebraska, his destination to discover that the neck of his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been broken.

Carroll complained to three United employees, but they proved indifferent.  He filed a claim with the airline–but was told he was ineligible for compensation.

The reason?  He had not filed the claim within the company’s stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe.”

Carroll turned to his musical roots for a remedy.  He wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars,” and turned it into a music video which he posted on YouTube and iTunes in July, 2009.

Click here: United Breaks Guitars – YouTube

The song went viral, and became a public relations nightmare for the airline.

The Sunday Times reported that, four days after the video’s posting, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10% costing stockholders about $180 million in value.

Most customers, admittedly, aren’t musicians.  For them–short of suing–the weapons of choice will be:

  • The phone
  • Letters
  • The Internet
  • Consumer protection organizations that can be enlisted

Let’s start with the first: The phone.

Most customers assume the place to take their anger is the airline Customer Service desk.  And the airlines encourage people to do just that.

Don’t do it.

Customer Service is staffed by people who may ooze compassion but who aren’t authorized to do anything on your behalf. And of course they’ll be well-versed in the standard airline excuses for why your request is denied.

(Think of Dave Carroll and the excuse United’s reps offered him: You didn’t file your claim within 24 hours.)

Even if they truly want to help you, they’ll find themselves outranked at every level.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it.  This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART THREE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Social commentary on November 17, 2014 at 12:03 am

When Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend kissed aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, they quickly found themselves in trouble.

Leisha Hailey

A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.

Hailey–the star of Showtime’s The L-Word (and a lesbian)–posted her experience on Twitter.  Calling for a boycot of Southwest, she tweeted:

“I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers as ‘family.’ I know plenty of wonderful same-sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don’t like us.”

Naturally, Southwest had its own explanation for what had happened:

“…We received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”

Translation: The situation was “better resolved on the ground” by forcing two unarmed, non-threatening women to leave the plane rather than having the airline honor their high-priced tickets.

Now, a quick question: When does a camera become a dangerous weapon?

When you snap a picture of an especially rude airline employee.

  • A  Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she did this at Philadelphia International Airport in July, 2011.

Sandy DeWitt believed the employee, Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt, a professional photographer, used her iPhone to snap a picture of G.’s nametag.  She intended to file a complaint with US Airways and wanted the picture as evidence.

As DeWitt settled into her seat, preparing for take-off, G. entered the plane and confronted her.

She ordered DeWitt to delete the photo.

DeWitt had already turned off her iPhone, as required before take-off.  She turned the phone back on to prove that the photo hadn’t come out.  Even so, she deleted the too-dark picture.

G. then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Suddenly, DeWitt found herself being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants.  Her husband followed.

Speaking with Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, she learned that she would not be allowed back on the plane.

The reason:  She was a “security risk.”

But that didn’t keep Lofton from directing her to American Airlines for a flight back to Miami.

But that flight had already departed and it was already after 7 p.m.  And there were no other flights back to Miami until the following morning.

“We were expecting to spend the night at the airport,” she said.

They eventually boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at 11 p.m.

Apparently, Southwest didn’t consider her to be a “security risk.”

Naturally, US Airways had a cover-story to explain what had happened.

Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways, told msnbc.com that DeWitt was removed for being “disruptive.”

“Once onboard, she was using foul and explicit language,” Lehmacher said. “She was removed at the request of the captain.”

Translation: “Disruptive” means whatever an airline official claims it to mean.

Business Insider ranked US Airways sixth in a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an economic indicator that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the United States. It is produced by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a private company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The ACSI interviews about 80,000 Americans annually and asks about their satisfaction with the goods and services they have consumed. And Americans’ most-hated companies include large banks, airlines, power and telecom companies.

David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, offered a critical insight into why these companies are so detested.

“These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high,” he told Business Insider in June, 2011.

“In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to.”

There certainly isn’t much competition within the airlines industry–whose numbers are limited and continue to shrink due to mergers and the rising cost of fuel.

For the airline industry generally, the former slogan of United Airlines–”Fly the Friendly Skies”–has unofficially been replaced with: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

So–when you’re facing a would-be KGB agent masquerading as an airline employee, what should you do?

First, you recognize that the concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Then you do what you can to see that it does.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART TWO (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Social commentary on November 14, 2014 at 12:01 am

The First Amendment of the American Constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

But some airline employees haven’t gotten the word.

Click here: 3 Easy Ways to Tell If a Business Puts Its Customers First – DailyFinance

Yes, what you say can get you thrown off an airplane–or worse.  And it doesn’t have to be anything even remotely like a threat.

  • In May, 2011, a US Airways flight was due to depart San Francisco International Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina at 1:20 p.m. But due to bad weather, passengers boarded the plane after 2 p.m.

Once on the plane, a flight attendant told customers over the intercom to hurry up and put their carry-ons in bins so they could take off and make their connecting flight in Charlotte.

One of the passengers, Luke Hazlewood, turned to the person next to him and said it was the airline’s fault they were late, “so don’t get mad at us.”

The flight attendant rushed out of the galley demanding to know who had said that. Once she determined it was Hazlewood, she told him he would have to leave for being disruptive and a threat to the plane.

Sandra Kraus, a former flight attendant, came to Hazlewood’s defense–and the flight attendant told her to get off the plane as well.

Both passengers asked to speak with the captain but he refused to speak with them.

Kraus was put on another flight.  Hazlewood and his accompanying girlfriend (who had left the plane with him) found that US Airways wouldn’t compensate them for a hotel room.

The airline refused to answer questions about the matter. Its written statement said “The passengers interfered with the flight crew and in the interest of safety they had to be removed.”

Translation: It’s a truism in both journalism and police work: When people refuse to answer questions, it’s nearly always because they know they have something to hide.

And the airline’s response came in the classic voice of the all-powerful dictator: “They refused to treat me like God and so they had to be eliminated.”

Business Insider ranked US Airways #6 on a list of  The 19 Most Hated Companies In America – Business Insider

  • In December, 2011, three middle-aged women were thrown off an AirTran flight at Palm Beach International Airport after a steward began roughly handling the luggage of one of them.

Marilyn Miller, a lawyer, was buckled in for takeoff when the attendant mishandled her overhead luggage.  “I have breakables in that,” she said.

The attendant ignored her and kept shoving other bags into hers.

Another passenger, Carol Gray, a retired travel agent, asked the same attendant for help, saying that her seat was broken.

“I’m not talking to you,” said the attendant, and poked her in the arm.  He then threatened to throw Miller and Gray off the plane.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Miller.

“Well, you’re getting off,” said the attendant.

Two sheriff’s deputies and airline staff arrived to remove them.

A third passenger, a therapist named Karyn Schoor, spoke up in their defense: “This is crazy, they didn’t do anything.  Why are you doing this to them?”

“Throw her off too,”’ ordered the attendant.

All three women were marched off the plane and back into the terminal.

The women were offered flights on other airlines paid for by AirTran.

And the official explanation given by AirTran?

“Our employees are responsible for the safety and comfort of everyone onboard a flight. Our goal is always to mitigate any uncomfortable situation prior to departure.”

Translation: Uncomfortable for whom–the passenger who doesn’t want her luggage roughly treated?  Or the attendant whose ego gets bent out of shape at the slightest objection?

  • In July, 2010, Southwest Airlines removed a slender, five-foot-four woman from a plane to accomodate an obese passenger.

The woman was flying standby from Las Vegas to Sacramento.  She had paid full fare for the last available seat, boarded and stowed her bags–and was told she must deplane immediately.

The reason: A late-arriving, 14-year-old passenger required two seats because of her girth.

When the woman asked Southwest personnel why she was being removed her from the flight, they berated her for daring to question their decision.

The temporarily stranded passenger managed to catch the next flight out to Sacramento.

  • You don’t have to assault someone to be thrown off an airplane. Even kissing your partner will do.

Southwest Airlines kicked Leisha Hailey–who not only plays a lesbian in Showtime’sThe L-Word series but is one–and her girlfriend off a flight to Los Angeles.

Their crime?  Kissing.

A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART ONE (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 13, 2014 at 12:12 am

During the Thanksgiving holiday period, 24.6 million passengers are expected to travel on American airlines.

The busiest travel day during the holiday–and the year–will be the Sunday after Thanksgiving as many travelers return from holiday visits

And many of them will become the victims of KGB Airways.

In truth, many airline personnel treat passengers the way KGB agents once treated Soviet citizens–with the arrogance that comes from holding near-absolute power over the lives of others.

Consider the following:

  • From the website of American Airlines:

ESSENTIAL NEEDS DURING EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS

In the case of extraordinary events that result in very lengthy onboard delays, American will make every reasonable effort to ensure that essential needs of food (snack bar such as Nutri-Grain®), water, restroom facilities, and basic medical assistance are met.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation:  On one hand, American promises that it will try to ensure that “essential needs of food, water, restroom facilities and basic medical assistance are met” during “very lengthy onboard delays.” 

On the other hand, if they “do not meet this commitment,” that’s just the passengers’ tough luck.

ACCEPTANCE OF PASSENGERS

American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point, for one or several reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Compliance with government requisition of space.
  2. Action necessary or advisable due to weather, or other conditions beyond American’s control.
  3. Refusal to permit a search of person or property for explosives or for deadly, controlled, or dangerous weapons, articles or substances.
  4. Refusal to produce positive identification upon request.
  5. Your physical or mental condition is such that in American’s sole opinion, you are rendered or likely to be rendered incapable of comprehending or complying with safety instructions without the assistance of an attendant.
  6. Your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent, or you
    1. Appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs,
    2. Attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew,
    3. Have a communicable disease that has been determined by a federal public health authority to be transmissible to other persons in the normal course of flight,
    4. Refuse to obey instructions from any flight crew member,
    5. Have an offensive odor not caused by a disability or illness,
    6. Are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers,
    7. Are barefoot, or
    8. Engage in any action, voluntary or involuntary, that might jeopardize the safety of the aircraft or any of its occupants.

Translation: “American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point” for just about any reason it wants to give.

Click here: American Airlines Conditions Of Carriage On AA.com

DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS AND DIVERSIONS

American Airlines will provide customers at the airport and onboard an affected aircraft with timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions and will strive to provide the best available information concerning the duration of delays and to the extent available, the flight’s anticipated departure time.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation: On one hand, American promises to give customers “timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions.” 

On the other hand, American absolves itself from any damages “if we do not meet this commitment.”

And how does all this translate into action?

  • In late March, 2012, a woman was barred from boarding an American Airlines flight because its staff disliked her choice of clothing.  She was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words: “IF I WANTED THE GOVERNMENT IN MY WOMB, I’D F— A SENATOR.”

After taking a seat she was told by a flight attendant that she needed to speak with the captain, who found the T-shirt “offensive.”  He said she would have to change before she could re-board the plane.

The passenger claims this interaction caused her to miss her connection: Her luggage was checked and “changing shirts without spending money wasn’t an option.”

Business Insider ranked American Airlines 8th on a list of The 19 Most Hated Companies In America.

  • In July, 2011, Malinda Knowles, a 27-year-old financial consultant, was kicked off a JetBlue flight at JFK Airport in New York because of her attire–a baggy blue T-shirt and denim shorts.

A male JetBlue employee walking down the aisle noticed Knowles.  He told her he didn’t think she was wearing enough clothing.

An argument erupted when the employee put his walkie-talkie between her legs to see if she was wearing shorts underneath. When Knowles objected, the JetBlue worker brought her off the plane and to a hangar.

There she modeled for the employees, showing that she was wearing shorts.

She returned to the plane, but the same employee once again approached her and said:  “The captain is refusing to fly you today. We need to remove you from the flight.”

After waiting four hours for another flight, she arrived in Florida.  Apparently the crew of that plane didn’t have any problem with her attire.

Knowles has since filed a lawsuit against JetBlue.

THE COMING IMPEACHMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2014 at 12:48 am

Some Republicans–like Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah–want their new majorities in the House and Senate to make “producing legislation” a top priority.

But others will soon make the impeachment of President Barack Obama their top priority.

Here’s how it will happen.

“We now have the votes and we have the ability to call the agenda, so stop name-calling and let’s actually produce some legislation that helps jobs and the economy and moves our country forward,” Chaffetz said in an interview after Republicans captured the U.S. Senate on November 4.

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Rep. Jason Chaffetz

“I think the country has figured that out, and they’ve given us the mandate to do it, and we better produce, or they’ll kick us out too.”

Obama has vowed to act unilaterally before year’s end to reduce the number of deportations and grant work permits to millions of illegal aliens living in the United States.

After promising to take executive action on immigration by the end of the summer, Obama delayed his plans until after the elections.  Democrats–especially Senators from conservative states–had warned him that such administrative moves could threaten their reelection.

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Illegal aliens crossing American borders by the millions

But on November 4, most of those Democrats lost anyway, leaving immigration advocates–and their millions of illegal alien constituents–feeling that the delay was needless.

“What I’m not going to do is just wait,” the president said as immigration legislation that the Senate passed in June 2013 remained stalled in the House.

Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–who will become Senate Majority Leader in January–has warned that this would be an in-your-face affront to the new majority GOP:

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://s3.amazonaws.com/dk-production/images/14762/large/a302bc9bea18eca2b87cd656e05105cb.jpg?1357627906&imgrefurl=http://kentuckysportsradio.com/main/mitch-mcconnell-is-about-to-come-on-ksr/&docid=UuX87ufrXGUUhM&tbnid=mIFfN17UeL3g3M:&w=512&h=393&ei=yNBbVLzJJsu5ogSEroDQCg&ved=0CAIQxiAwAA&iact=c

Mitch McConnell

“I think the president choosing to do a lot of things unilaterally on immigration would be a big mistake,” McConnell said. “It’s an issue that most of my members want to address legislatively and it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say, ‘If you guys don’t do what I want, I’m going to do it on my own.’ …

“I hope he won’t do that because I do think it poisons the well for the opportunity to address a very important domestic issue.”

To which Obama responded: “I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take.

“Those are folks, I just have to say, who are also deeply opposed to immigration reform in any form and blocked the House from being able to pass a bipartisan bill.”

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://a.abcnews.com/images/Politics/abc_obama_specreport_121114_wg.jpg&imgrefurl=http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/transcript-obama-press-conference/story?id=17719993&docid=aHyTmgZZkmFu3M&tbnid=d6eKt5qgtY_TPM:&w=640&h=360&ei=ANJbVLDlGIG2oQTWpoGABQ&ved=0CAIQxiAwAA&iact=c

Barack Obama

Republicans could use spending bills to restrict or stop such executive action, by cutting appropriations to those agencies that would be tasked with carrying out Obama’s directives on immigration.

Several Republicans hold the deep-seated view that Obama already has been abusing his constitutional authority.

“Abuse of power” is an impeachable offense under the United States Constitution.  So making this assertion would provide Republicans with the weapon they’ve long sought to drive Obama from the White House.

Republicans, in fact, have a tainted history of using impeachment to remove a President who dared to thwart their agenda.

After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, in 1865, Republican President Andrew Johnson tried to carry out Lincoln’s humane policies to reunify the nation after the Civil War.

He issued a series of proclamations directing the former Confederate states to hold conventions and elections to re-form their civil governments. In response, Southern states returned many of their old leaders, and passed Black Codes to deprive freed slaves of many civil liberties.

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.usnews.com/cmsmedia/48/6360399039911f92c124ef13176dcc/10467FS_DA_090409_worst-johnson.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.usnews.com/news/history/articles/2007/02/16/worst-presidents-andrew-johnson&docid=SpfOJ2azMoXRhM&tbnid=Zbb7WgUNRBLe8M:&w=300&h=300&ei=XdJbVJDOIoH9oATYjYL4DA&ved=0CAIQxiAwAA&iact=c

Andrew Johnson

Congress refused to seat legislators from those states and advanced legislation to overrule the Southern actions.  Johnson vetoed their bills, and Congress overrode him, setting a pattern until he left the White House in 1869.

As the conflict grew between the executive and legislative branches of government, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, restricting Johnson in firing Cabinet officials.  Johnson then tried to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton–with whom he had an antagonistic relationship.

An enraged Congress impeached Johnson in the House of Representatives.  He avoided conviction and removal from office in the Senate–by one vote.

If President Obama tries to end-run Congress on immigration policy, history will likely repeat itself with another round of impeachment hearings.

It was Mitch McConnell who infamously vowed–immediately after Obama’s election in 2008–to make him “a one-term President.”

Moreover, there is actually no reason for Obama to risk his Presidency by granting the privileges of American citizenship to millions of illegal aliens.

Democrats–and especially Obama–had counted on millions of illegal aliens to retain Democratic control of the Senate.  But those masses of Hispanic voters never showed up at the polls, thus giving Republicans control of both houses of Congress.

If Obama practiced ruthless “Chicago politics” as charged by his enemies, his response would be: “You [illegal aliens] didn’t live up to your end.  Therefore, I have no further responsibility to you.”

Unfortunately for the President, he seems unable to break with his past of backing unpopular causes for little in return.

 

“WE WANT TO GIVE YOU MONEY”: PART THREE (END)

In Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 7, 2014 at 12:00 am

According to the charity Citizens Advice, online scammers are preying on as many as four million people each year.

How can you protect yourself from becoming one of them?  Look for these characteristics in the emails you receive:

  1. Unsolicited:  You’re told you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  2. Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.”  Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims.
  3. Appeals to religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  4. Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language.   Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  5. Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.”  This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  6.  Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.”  This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  7. Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  8. Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention.  Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about.  Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  9. The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam.  Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations.  It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.
  10. Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  11. Highly Personal Requests: Asking you–someone they’ve never met–to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  12. Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman–usually outside the United States–seeking love.  A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours.  All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  13. “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams  promise a way to support yourself and your family.  You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.”  Then you wait for job orders–that never come.
  14. Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt–for a large up-front fee.  You pay the fee–and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  15. Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  16. “Free” Trial Offcers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  17. The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.”  The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice.  It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients.   If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address.  The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  18. “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know–who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country.  S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom.  If you get such an email, call the person to make certain.  Don’t rush to send money–chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • If an email from a stranger asks you to send money, don’t do it.  If the sender claims to be a friend, call your friend first to make sure it came from him.
  • Don’t click on unknown links–especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee–”on faith”–to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • Under its new director, James Comey, the FBI is mounting a major effort against cybercrime.  Click on its page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber for solid advice on how to protect yourself online.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.
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