Flyersrights to US Secretary of Transportation: Fix the Delta Airline monster created


Paul Hudson demands from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to restore a reciprocity rule that his organization, FlyersRights, has championed.

It’s known as Rule 240 that allows passengers on a significantly delayed or canceled flights to use their ticket on another airline’s flight at no additional cost.

Flyersrights is a private air travelers consumer protection organization under the leadership of Paul Hudson, who is also a Member of the FAA Rulemaking Advisory Committee.

Flyersrights has been investigating the recent computer outage at Delta Airlines forcing thousands of flight cancellation

According to a report by Flyersright Delta still can’t get their system together 3 days later- customers experienced another day of delays and cancellations on Wednesday.

Power outage crippled the airline and led to 1,700 flights being grounded. A ‘critical’ piece of equipment failed at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters, the airline said. The wait for passengers to talk to a rep is over 2 hours.

The outage is only one out of many suffered by U.S. airlines due to aging computer systems.

The situation caused for Flyersrights to submit the following letter to the Hon. Anthony Foxx
Secretary of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20590
Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator
800 Independence Ave. SW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20591

The letter was delivered today.

It says:

RE: Delta and other airlines computer outages

Dear Secretary Fox and Administrator Huerta:
In light of the Delta Airlines computer outage, Flyers Rights and Travelers United urge the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue an emergency rule or order to protect hundreds of thousands of consumers from thousands of flight cancellations this week. DOT should immediately re-instate the reciprocity rule (formerly Rule 240) or otherwise make airline passengers whole when an airline computer outage cancels or delays flights.

Airlines have been using outdated computer systems for decades. When airline mergers boomed in the late 2000’s, airlines declined the opportunity to update their systems and instead overloaded their outdated systems with increased traffic. Whether or not this was the
right decision, airlines should bear the costs for the risks they took and continue to take. It is unfair to the traveling public that the cost of under investment in needed equipment be shifted and placed on the back of air travelers.

This is especially true where, as here, there is an easy cost effective, system wide regulatory fix (the reciprocity rule) that has been proven to reduce inconvenience caused by nonweather related flight cancelations.

Current remedies are entirely inadequate. Delta Airlines allowed re-booking, so long as the rebooked flight begins on or before Friday, August 12 (later amended to August 21). To force passengers to reschedule on the airline’s time frame, due to an airline error, is completely unreasonable. In the instance of a computer outage, the airline should offer a full refund or re-book flights at no additional cost.

As of today Delta still not fixed its systemic computer problems and has also failed to add needed staff so that it is telling passengers they must wait 2+ hours just to reach a reservation or customer service agent.

In 2008 when big banks were deemed too big to fail, the US government took action. When the big auto companies were in trouble the government took action to save them. After 9/11 the government took action to save the airlines. Now four airlines control 85% of all domestic air travel and three joint ventures control 2/3 of international flights, so when one airline goes down, it compromises the entire national air transportation system. And all four (American, Southwest, Delta and United) and the FAA ATC over the past 1 O years have had chronic computer outages, affecting millions of passengers and costing billions for the US economy, that depends on safe and reliable air travel.

Under 49 USC § 106(f)(3)(B)(ii), The Administrator of the FAA may issue emergency regulations and the Secretary of Transportation may ratify the emergency regulations within 5 days. The FAA issues airlines certificates of public convenience and necessity, to provide reliable air transportation to the general public, it is not a license to engage in negligent operations or chronic under investment in equipment causing a partial failure of the national air transportation system.

The FAA and DOT have the legal responsibility to regulate the airline industry “in the public interest and consistent with public convenience and necessity” as well to prohibit “deceptive or unfair practices.” You are also charged with “developing and maintaining a sound regulatory system that is responsive to the needs of the public.” 47 USC Section
40101 (a)( 4)(7)

Accordingly, and Travelers United call on you to take action to protect consumers from the unilateral mistakes of airlines by immediately re-instating the reciprocity rule (aka Rule 240) and mandating reliable backup and reserve capacity for computer and
other critical air transportation operations and systems.

There is no justification for Delta passengers to be delayed up to three days due to its systemic failures while other airlines have empty seats flying to the same destinations.

Paul Hudson
Member, FAA Rulemaking Advisory

FlyersRights has been writing to the CEO of Delta, calling for passengers be made whole. In addition to urging FAA administrator Michael Huerta and DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to issue emergency regulations and orders under their legal authority and duty to protect the national air transportation system from disruption and chaos.

Hudson said: The airlines have created a monster – and should bear the cost of these avoidable shutdowns by making passengers whole instead of dumping the cost and inconvenience on the flying public.