formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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September 5, 2017 Get it Write

The Liberty Gazette
September 5, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: When advising writers, Mike’s favorite topic is how badly Hollywood gets things wrong when portraying anything aviation. There’s no shortage of examples.

Mike: When it comes to credible airplane scenes, one of the most egregious transgressions is Die Hard 2. The fails in that movie are many, like when one of the bad guys takes over air traffic control. We’re supposed to believe that by refusing to clear them to land he can hold planes hostage in the air until they run out of fuel. That’s ridiculous. In reality they would fly to another airport.

Linda: In preparation for a presentation to writers on writing believable aviation scenes, we welcomed questions in advance. One of our guest writers was concerned about the plausibility of aviation scenes in her story. She had some interesting questions, some fueled by incidents that happened earlier this year. That is, can airlines remove a passenger due to overbooking?

Yes, and here’s why. As an airline customer, you are only buying a journey from here to there. Not a seat, not a flight. Carriers spell this out in the contract of carriage to which you are bound when you buy your ticket.

Most airlines overbook by five to fifteen percent, depending on several factors which are decided upon with very serious statistical analysis to serve the profit goals.

This, of course, begs the follow-on question, what rights do bumped passengers have? In a word, compensation.

The more complete answer is if an airline overbooks, they must first ask for volunteers to give up seats before yanking paying passengers off the plane. If they don’t get enough volunteers, they will offer money or free tickets. If they reach the maximum they’re willing to tender and there still aren’t enough volunteers, they can remove people from the flight.

Here’s what you’ll want to know if this happens to you. They’ll have to provide a written statement of why you were bumped. They must also re-book you, and if you will be significantly delayed, you’re entitled to payment up to $1,350. You don’t have to accept a voucher. They must cut you a check if you request it.

These rights won’t apply if you relinquish your seat voluntarily. They also aren’t valid unless the removal is due to overbooking. Any other reason, such as a change in planes, problems with weight and balance calculations to ensure a safe flight, or a delayed or cancelled flight, does not come with promises or reimbursements.

If you’d like to know more about your rights as an airline passenger you can go to
https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/flights-and-rights.

Mike: One more thing. If you buy a business class ticket you will not be removed due to overbooking. You might not get to sit in business class, but you’ll get a seat. The ticket price buys this benefit, and you don’t have to be a celebrity to receive this special treatment. But you might not want to watch Die Hard 2 on your flight.

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