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Which Americans have passports, and which Americans don’t?

30% of Americans have passports. But where do those Americans live?

New Jersey takes the prize for the highest percentage of passports issued: 68.36%. At the low end: Mississippi, with just 19.86%.

Via C.G.P. Grey, see the graphic below:

For the “yes, but…” file: This dataset actually reflects addresses for issuance, not ownership of US passports. That’s because it’s based on addresses at the time of application, so if you got your passport when you live in Los Angeles and then move to St. Louis, you’re in the California stats, not the Missouri stats.

Also, since it’s based on US passports, it doesn’t take into account the sizable non-citizen resident population. So, for example, green card holders aren’t included.

But while these data aren’t perfect, they probably capture the majority of reality.

Data junkie? Hit the raw data directly from the US government, or view the data in Google Apps spreadsheet form, as organized by blogger C.G.P. Grey.

Upgraded: Stopovers in Istanbul, with free tours courtesy of Turkish Airlines

Sure, some airlines let you work in a free stopover. But Turkish Airlines goes one step further and offers up a free city tour on a stopover as short as six hours.

Maybe getting into a shuttle bus and tooling around Istanbul after seven hours on an Airbus isn’t your cup of tea, but if you’re up for it, then focus on the key term in that previous sentence: Free!

From the website for their program, IstanbulInHours.com, some of the details of the six-hour tour:

If you have a transit flight from Istanbul and have more than 6 hours waiting time for your connecting flight, you can visit our hotel desk to join our free city tour and experience the glamorous city that connects Europe to Asia as land and also as culture.

After you apply to our Hotel Desk which can be found at the airport, you will be picked up by a private tour guide and get to see most significant historical places of Istanbul. There are two 6-hour tours daily; one starts at 09:00 and ends at 15:00, and the other one is from 12:00 to 18:00. You will be taken to airport after your tour ends. The transportation in Istanbul and the transportation to and from the airport will be done by free shuttles.

All your transportation, meal and museum fees will be met by Turkish Airlines. If you have any further questions, please visit our FAQ page or contact us.

All transportation, meals, and museum fees are covered? Wow.

Are you going to get a full taste of Istanbul in six hours? Of course not. Will you be tired? Quite likely. But you’ll get a brief taste of some major sights.

How viable is it to actually take advantage of this? Remember, you need to be transiting Turkey internationally, not just making a connection from an international flight. Depending on your destination, the timetable may not make it possible.

Since I’ve never participated in these tours (or even been to Turkey, yet), I can’t vouch for the quality of the tours, so don’t take this as an endorsement, per se. But I really like the idea, so hats off to Turkish for offering this. Bonus points since they’re not just doing it for business class passengers. Even economy gets in on the action.

I’m curious to hear if others have any experience with this. If anyone out there has done a free Turkish Airlines Istanbul tour, post your story in the comments.

The mysterious popularity of ginger ales on airlines

A recent article on Chow.com identifies a trend in American aviation catering: The surprisingly high demand for ginger ale on America’s planes.

Why ginger ale, and not Coke, 7UP, or Bloody Mary mix? The most popular theory among flight attendants is that it relieves nausea. “If [passengers] have motion sickness, it settles their stomach,” says Elizabeth Rogers, a flight attendant for Mesaba Airlines.

The lack of caffeine may be a further motivating factor, both for people worried about becoming dehydrated during the flight and for those who don’t consume caffeine for health or religious reasons. “Mormons don’t drink caffeine, so they have a tendency to drink ginger ale,” says Gail Phillips, a flight attendant for United Airlines. Then there’s the novelty factor: “They hear someone else order it, and then everyone else wants it too,” says Penny Sandahl, a flight attendant for Mesaba.

And the trend is apparently real. A from 2007 quotes a study showing that 10% of inflight beverages on American Airlines were ginger ale, vs. 3% of soft drink sales in the overall market. That’s pretty impressive.

I am guilty of feeding into this. If I’m sitting in domestic coach, I am much more likely to order a ginger ale than any other soft drink. And I’m not entirely sure why.

Some of the theories are plausible, but I’m not sure they work for me. Is it the stomach calming effect of ginger? I’m usually pretty mellow in-flight, but perhaps I’ve got some latent anxiety. It’s an unlikely explanation.

Is it the relative novelty of ginger ale? I don’t see ginger ale on a regular basis on menus, or in my cafeteria at work. So perhaps it’s just the “hey, I haven’t thought about ginger ale in a while” effect?

Or was it once based on those reasons, and has now become conditioned behavior? After this many flights, perhaps I have just come to associate air travel with ginger ale.

I still find it amusing that this is being identified as a trend. The trend goes further, at least for me: I rarely drink ginger ale outside of flights in domestic coach. (Flying up front domestically? It’s probably a gin and tonic. International? Depends on the airline, but I tend toward the wine list.)

So, when you’re strapped in, and the plane has risen above 10,000 feet, and the beverage cart comes out, what’s your drink? Ginger ale?… Hit the comments.

So what happens to planes that fly through volcanic ash clouds?

It’s been a bad day for travel to, from, or across northern Europe, with flights canceled wholesale due to the eruption of a volcano in Iceland.

So, what would happen if a commercial airplane flew through a volcanic ash cloud? It’s happened before, to a British Airways 747 traveling over Indonesia in 1982: 

Aircraft avoid any airspace that has volcanic ash in it for a simple reason: the ash can wreck the function of propeller or jet aircraft, because it is so fine that it will invade the spaces between rotating machinery and jam it – the silica melts at about 1,100C and fuses on to the turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes (another part of the turbine assembly), which in modern aircraft operate at 1,400C.

That, in turn, can be catastrophic – as the crew of two aircraft, including a British Airways Boeing 747, discovered in 1982 when they flew through an ash cloud from the Galunggung volcano in Indonesia. On both planes, all four engines stopped; they dived from 36,000ft (11km) to 12,000ft before they could restart them and make emergency landings.
[…]
Passengers on the BA flight that hit the cloud in 1982 said the engines looked unusually bright: soon after all four flamed out. “I don’t believe it – all four engines have failed!” said the flight engineer. The crew were prepared to ditch, and the captain told the passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

Good move canceling the flights.

And nice work, this line: “I trust you are not in too much distress.”

What a shock: Your e-passport isn’t secure after all

Backtracking from earlier claims that e-passports are “totally secure,” the U.S. State Department is now urging travelers to keep their RFID-chip enabled passports in “radio-opaque sleeves” to protect owners from having their information skimmed by unauthorized readers within a 30-foot range.

The State Department’s warning comes with the caveat that “hackers won’t find any practical use for data,” because personal information is encrypted. But that encryption has already been cracked.

So now the data and the accessibility of the chip have been compromised. Why are we using this technology, again?

Implementation of this technology means more hassle, more concern about your data, and, frankly, less convenience. Great.

As Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, notes, “By obliging Americans to use these sleeves […] the government has, in effect, shifted the burden of privacy protection to the citizen.”

And while this is a completely remote possibility for everyday travelers…

In 2006, a mobile security company, Flexilis, conducted an experiment in which the transponder of a partially opened e-passport triggered an explosive planted in a trashcan when a dummy carrying the chipped passport approached the bin. A video of the experiment was shown that year at a security conference.

I like the old, non-IED-triggering plain-vanilla passports better.

The whole RFID controversy is so frustrating because it’s completely unnecessary. You don’t need a chip to create a counterfeit-resistant document in the first place. But by addressing one problem — counterfeiting — it creates a swath of new problems.

If you want to be sure, remember that there’s really only one surefire way to prevent your e-passport from broadcasting your personal information: Break the chip. Pound it with a hammer.

Rail website charges double if you search in English

Last week, I was trying to book tickets for travel between Barcelona and Madrid on the relatively-new AVE high-speed rail line. I soon realized that the price quoted on the website of RENFE, Spain’s national railway, depended on the language in which you chose to conduct your searches.

When I searched the site earlier that day from my office, I searched in Spanish. A one-way ticket from Barcelona to Madrid could be had for around 44 euros on a “tarifa Web,” their Internet special fare with 30 day advance purchase.

When I was at home, ready to finalize my purchase, I opted to search with the site language set to English. The price was nearly 110 euros.

(On the positive side, RENFE’s full-fare ticket is still less than the $253 per person that Rail Europe is charging… Where on earth is that fare coming from?…) Rail website charges double if you search in English

A little digging revealed that the Spanish-language RENFE site offered three tiers of ticket, including the deep-discounted 15-day advance purchase “Tarifa Web” and the discounted 7-day advance purchase “Tarifa Estrella.” 

The English-language site only offered the full-price fare, with an indication of how much that fare would cost if you bought it in the station vs. on the web. Web and Estrella fares were missing.

My one year of high school Spanish, limited travel experience in the Spanish-speaking world, and Google Translate were enough to figure out what I was buying on the Spanish-language site. And I was able to get the lower fare, using a US billing address and an American Visa card, with two tickets costing less than one ticket on the English site. But why is this necessary?

A quick search shows that other English speakers have had similar experiences, and that some users have been unable to complete a purchase at all.

The bothersome part is that RENFE has actively constructed a site that looks and acts differently for different users, based solely on their language. It’s not based on your IP address, or your billing address. It affects Americans, Britons, and anyone who opts for English in the same way.

I just did another search, for different dates, and it’s not just a fluke. It’s systematic. Here’s a screenshot of Spanish-language search results (note that fares in the search images below are different from what I booked):

And here’s the site in English:

(The two-price system reminds me of a trip through eastern Europe in 1992. At the Vilnius train station, where I was trying to buy a ticket to Warsaw, the rail station cashiers had a simple standard for outsiders: The fare was 200. 200 rubles, dollars, Deutschmarks, whatever. Your nationality determined your currency. It always cost 200.)

Segmenting your customers, and pitching different products to them accordingly, is one thing. Discriminating against them wholesale is quite another.

——

UPDATE 1:
An unnamed RENFE representative writes in:

Subject: Renfe website doesn’t charge double
The information found in the Upgrade Travel Better blog, stating that the price for tickets purchased in the English language option on Renfe’s website is much more expensive than in the Spanish version, is incorrect. The prices referred to in the above-mentioned information relate exclusively to the Timetables Search section; legally, Renfe is obliged to publish the prices to which the various discounts are applied. However, when tickets are actually acquired (by pressing the shopping trolley icon) the purchaser is taken directly to the ticket purchase application, which shows all special offer prices, identically in all languages. The area designed for purchasing tickets also has an English version.

As I indicated in my comment, it is indeed possible to find the discounted web fares. But this misses the point: The initial English quoted price is still double the initial Spanish quoted price.Why would anyone who searches in English assume that the price would go down from there? There’s no indication on the initial English search page that web or estrella fares even exist.

Renfe’s English site is the equivalent of going to a supermarket and seeing a pack of gum labeled for sale for $5. If you see the $5 price, you’ll probably just leave it there. Or, you could ask the cashier about the price, and when he doesn’t know why it’s so expensive, he could call over the manager, who would politely explain that you could buy the pack of gum for $1. So, yes, after much time and negotiation, the gum actually costs $1, but why would you go through that trouble?

Renfe’s response shows that they’re content to sell their services with mislabeled prices. Why is this an acceptable business practice, exactly?

UPDATE 2:
The folks from Renfe just won’t give up on denying that their site misrepresents their prices! But they admit their site needs work, and they indicate that a relaunch of the site is coming. If the response to this post is any indicator, that relaunch can’t come soon enough.

This post is already incredibly long, so I share their latest e-mail to me, and my response to it, after the jump.

Subject: The prices quote are the same, definetively

Dear Mark,

Your update of the post regarding Renfe’s website maintains the same mistake there was in the main post, as it’s to say “The initial English quoted price is still double the initial Spanish quoted price”. That’s no true, so let’s hope we could break the misunderstanding. Spanish Renfe’s home have two different sections: Tickets Sale (Venta de Billetes) and Timetable Search (Buscador de Horarios). If you enter into the second section you’ll find, of course, only timetables with general fares. But if you want actually purchase the tickets, then –and only then- you have to enter into the first section. There you can choose your train, the web “question” the system about the availability of tickets and shows the places, the offers, etc.

Since a simple timetable can’t say anything about availability, it’s as well not possible for it say anything about discount or special fares, that are subjected to a availability and, furthermore, they’re changing (the discount are NOT 40 or 60%, but UP TO 40 or 60).

The misunderstanding begins when you select a language (any language, not only English) and you’re droved directly to “Timetable Search”. If you want to know how are the prices and availability you’re addressed to the proper section. Maybe all these steps are not so clear for everyone, so from now on we’ll put a note explaining that if you want to check’em you have to go to Ticket Sales.

In short, when you say “the initial Spanish quoted price” probably you mean the banner with a list of fares: Estrella, up to 40%, etc. But, Mark, this is not a quoted price, neither a price! It’s only an advertisement…

Moreover, it’s not a double price of any other, since you don’t even know if there’s a discount available for your train!

On the other hand, this “English website”, like the other languages websites, is only a provisional solution, because we’re currently building a brand new website, clearer for the purchaser and with proper translations.

Sincerely,
Renfe Operadora
Press Office

My response, in an attempt to be as detailed as possible, to avoid any further misunderstandings, and hopefully guide their efforts to improve the customer experience…:

First, thank you for your note. I appreciate the fact that RENFE is answering these concerns, though I disagree strongly with your assessment. The problems are not simply a “misunderstanding.” They are a failure of RENFE to build a sensible website, and your defensiveness shows a lack of comprehension of the consumer experience.

So, dear RENFE, let me try to help you. I think you need to understand how visitors actually enter your site, rather than the abstract notion of what information is out there on your site.

Let’s compare the user experience of the Spanish-speaker and the English-speaker.

Here’s the Spanish-language flow through the site:
1) I go to www.renfe.es. On the left sidebar, I choose cities, dates, etc., in Spanish. I click “buscar.”

2) A new window opens (annoying, I might add). The fares are all there, including web and estrella fares. Fares are as low as 43.80 euros for a one-way AVE ticket between Barcelona and Madrid. (THIS is what I refer to as the “initial Spanish quoted price” in the post above. Not the advertised “fares as low as 60% off” banner, which you seem to think I’m referring to.) I choose a specific train/fare option, scroll to the bottom, enter the CAPTCHA number, and click “continuar.”

3) Next screen: I enter my billing information, check the terms/conditions box, and click “comprar.”

The Spanish version is relatively simple. (Of course, when booking two tickets, and choosing web fare, your site sometimes hiccups when only one seat is available at that price… that’s another problem but let’s stay on topic…)

In contrast, here’s the English-language experience. If you haven’t done this yourself, try it sometime, and imagine that you don’t understand the Spanish words that appear on the screen…:

1) I go to www.renfe.es. I look for something that suggests an option to view in another language, which most sites indicate with, say, the word “English,” or a small icon of a UK flag. Alas, there isn’t anything obvious for those who can’t read Spanish. Instead, at the bottom left, there is a pulldown labeled “Seleccione su idioma” with a stylized European Union flag adjacent. Somehow, despite the lack of clarity, I don’t give up, and I click on the pulldown and choose “English.” Next page automatically loads…

2) I arrive at a page entitled “Timetables and Prices.” There is no indication that this page is just information, vs. a way to purchase. The English-speaking visitor is unaware, at this point, that there is a separate process for buying tickets, and that there might conceivably be any discounts available. There is no mention of web or estrella fares. I choose my cities, my date of travel, etc., and I click “search.”

3) A new window opens (annoying, again). Fares are listed in the English-language format as pictured in the original post above. Despite this being the English site, fares are labeled in Spanish: “precio Internet,” for example. No discounts are shown. Again, no information about the EXISTENCE or POSSIBILITY of discounted web or estrella fares is shown. Prices here are full-fare, with the lowest fare at 109.50 euros; I refer to this as the “initial English quoted price” above. I click the shopping cart icon in the column labeled “compra,” rather than “buy.”

4) Another new window opens (have I mentioned that all these new windows are annoying?). I’m brought to a page that’s entirely in Spanish. Irritated, I start looking for a way to change the language to English. At the bottom left, I see some text in Spanish, and a pulldown with the word “espanol” on it. I click it, and see English as an option. I choose English…

5) The page refreshes, with the left sidebar and tabs at the top in partial English. The main frame of the screen is in Spanish. I now need to re-enter all the information I entered earlier (annoying, again) to perform a new search. I enter my cities, dates, etc., and click “buscar” — again, in Spanish, not in English, despite this being the “English” version.

6) FINALLY, I get a screen with bookable fares, with web and estrella discounts. I choose a fare, enter the CAPTCHA, and click “continue.”

7) Billing information, terms/conditions, etc., with a “purchase” option at the bottom.

Why are there all these unnecessary steps in the English version? Why not simply bring an English user to the search page that features bookable fares, as you do for Spanish customers? Instead, you route English-language visitors to timetables which look like booking pages. Note also that a reasonable person should expect the quoted price to be the price available for purchase. If you’re listing the highest prices, with no indication of alternative fares, you’re doing yourselves and your customers a grave disservice.

You’re costing yourselves sales, and good will.

I look forward to seeing the promised improvements to the website. But above all, I look forward to my travel between Barcelona and Madrid.

Sincerely,
Mark Ashley

Five ways to get an edge over other air travelers

Most travelers head to the airport, check in, and let the airline take care of the rest. That’s not good enough. Especially if anything goes wrong — and things DO go wrong. You need be your own advocate, and you need a game plan, backed up with information and technology.

Here are five ways to get an edge over the more complacent travelers around you:

1) Get serious status reports sent to you in real-time.
While airlines offer e-mail, text message, and automated phone call alerts, which update you on the status of your flight, these updates are often too little and too late. For real status updates, sign up for the alerts feature at FlightStats.com. Their updates are very, very detailed, and you’ll know exactly where you stand.

2) Know your alternatives.
Carry the airline’s timetable, or a list of alternate flights to your destination, which can be downloaded or printed from any airline’s website. This is useful when you try for a rebooking or want to go standby. Let’s say flights are delayed two hours across the board. The previous flight might still be waiting to push back from the gate. Check the timetable you brought with you and make a beeline for that earlier flight. Try to stand by and get out early, instead of waiting for hours for your scheduled itinerary.

BONUS: Don’t forget alternate routings if trying to rebook. Just because you’re scheduled to fly from Raleigh to Los Angeles via Chicago doesn’t mean that’s the only route you can take. (E.g., maybe you can fly via Dallas instead.) Having an electronic timetable is great for this. Ask airline agents about specific route alternatives — they may not look them up if you don’t ask for them by name.

3) Playing contract lawyer can be fun.
Though the rules that govern your ticket aren’t pre-printed on your boarding pass, you’re still bound by them. So bring a copy! Since I usually travel with a laptop, I keep a downloaded copy of the airline’s contract of carriage on the hard drive. The contract includes rules such as compensation for being bumped and the infamous “Rule 240″ that lives on in some contracts, governing the transferability of your itinerary to another airline in case of delay. (Knowing the real reason for delays is useful, too.) I also keep screenshots (or PDFs) of terms and conditions pages related to upgrades, frequent flyer mile redemption, etc., in case anyone gives me a hard time. Know your rights, and exert them. I’ve had to break out that legal mumbo jumbo with airline representatives (and their supervisors) on a few occasions, and with paperwork at the ready, I’ve always won.

4) Pre-program airline phone numbers into your cell phone.
While airlines’ 1-800 numbers are increasingly staffed by unempowered outsourced overseas call center personnel, you may need to call and make a change. Best to have the number at the ready, especially if you’re stuck on the plane.

BONUS: If there are big delays, and long lines of people waiting for a customer service desk, try the self-service kiosks. Often, the machine can help, faster than a call to the 800 number can. If the machine can’t help, there’s sometimes a phone attached, and picking it up connects you to an agent — an agent who, in my experience, has been far more empowered than the average call center employee. I’ve used those phones to get on standby lists and make last-minute itinerary changes, while others stood in a long line at the gate, hoping to make the same change. These kiosk phones work, but most people don’t use them.

BONUS 2: Program this number in, too: 1-877-FLYERS-6 (1-877-359-3776). It’s the Stranded Passengers’ Hotline from the Coalition for Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. If your plane pulls away from the gate and just sits there ad nauseam, call them and let them know.

5) Check in online, and early
This one should really go without saying, but so many people put it off that it bears repeating. Check in online, and do it as early as you can. The earlier you check in, the less likely you’ll be bumped, and the more likely you’ll be in line for upgrades and clearing standby, if either of those options are in the cards.

BONUS: Check in early even if your flight is delayed. Let’s say your flight is delayed two hours, and you know it’s delayed even before you even head to the airport. Check in before your scheduled departure time, not the rescheduled/delayed time. If you don’t check in by the original time, you’ll still be considered a no-show and could lose your seat. And I recommend against showing up late for a delayed flight. You never know when that 2 hour delay might miraculously turn into a 30-minute delay, leaving you grounded. Don’t laugh, it happens. Better to show up on time and try to stand by for the earlier (delayed) flight.

BONUS 2: Some people mistakenly think you can’t check in online if you have bags to check. That’s not true. Some airports have a bag-drop for those who checked in online, while others make you stand in line. (Just be sure to leave yourself enough time to check the bags.) But checking in early online still has its benefits, no matter if you check bags or carry on.

These tips won’t guarantee that you’ll get where you need to be on time, but you’ll improve your odds.

Reader mail: How can I upgrade flights using American Express?

Reader VJ writes:

I’ve heard that there is an American Express card that automatically lets you upgrade your flights on a bunch of airlines. Is this true? How do I get such a card, and what does it cost? I couldn’t find anything on the American Express website.

Such a card indeed exists, but you won’t find an application anywhere on the American Express website. The card you’re looking for is the Centurion Card, also known as the black card.

The black is the ultimate bling credit card. It offers an unlimited credit limit and promises all sorts of “concierge” services and perks, such as personal shoppers at luxury retailers. It’s not even made of plastic anymore: it’s made of titanium. Seriously. Other banks might offer a “titanium” card like they offer a “gold” or “platinum” card. This is really made of metal.

Membership qualifications vary by country, but you’ve got to be a big spender, reportedly as high as $250,000 charged in a single year. You don’t apply: They invite. And it comes at a stiff price: The annual fee is $2500 (for U.S. cardholders; more in some countries, less in others). Not to mention the initiation fee, reportedly at $5000.

So why would anyone spend that kind of money to have a credit card?

To show off, mostly. But the upgrades you mention might be a reason.

For several years, American Centurion holders received mid-tier elite status in several airlines: Continental OnePass Gold Elite, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Gold Medallion, and US Airways Dividend Miles Gold Preferred. (US Airways dropped out after they merged with America West. Now, newly-invited cardholders also receive elite status in Virgin Atlantic’s program.) So if you were upgraded on those airlines, it’s a function of the elite status you gained because of the card, not thanks to flashing the black card at the gate.

Other travel benefits include free companion tickets on tickets booked through their staff, membership in the PriorityPass airport lounge network, and elite status in hotel loyalty programs (though many of these benefits are already available to Platinum cardholders, too, who pay “only” $450 per year.)

Benefits and elite memberships conferred will vary by country. For example, if you’re a Centurion cardholder in Germany, you’ll get elite status in KLM and at a basket of hotels. Or if you’re based in Australia, you’ll get membership in the Qantas airport clubs, which others don’t. Etc.

Since the Centurion site is off limits to non-members, curious gawkers can browse another site, which serves as on online museum of black card history.

I’m not expecting The Call from Amex offering me membership in the Centurion club anytime soon. And if asked, I’m sure I’d decline. Paying that kind of money for the privilege of spending more money just doesn’t jive with my way of thinking. If I’m going Amex, I’ll stick with the no-fee or low-fee cards that link up with Hilton or Starwood hotels and shower you with points toward free nights.

Airbus A380 at Chicago O’Hare

I’m back from vacation, tanned, rested, and ready. Thanks to Tyler Colman, a.k.a. Dr. Vino, for minding the store in my absence, and for guest-posting earlier today. (And, as an aside, congrats to him for his James Beard Award nomination!)

I returned to Chicago just in time to catch a glimpse of the behemoth Airbus A380 at O’Hare. Airbus and Lufthansa have been taking it on tour. Sadly, I arrived at 4:30pm and was unable to get the interior tour, but I snapped a few exterior photos. They’re not the greatest pictures, but what the heck.

The photo above was taken from my seat onboard a comparatively wimpy little Boeing 737, right after landing. We taxied right past the mega-jet after touching down. I have to admit, it’s really impressive when you see the plane in person. There was a 747 nearby, and it looked small.

And yes, being a dork, I took the train to the long-term parking lot and back to the terminal to try to get another glimpse.

Update: How to support the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights

Reader Lisa writes:

I would be interested in supporting a passenger bill of rights, if someone started a “movement.” I don’t fly that often, but worry every time I go that I’ll be subjected to something like the 9 hour wait on the runway. Please let me know if there’s somewhere I could email, or send a letter of support for such a thing.

The idea of a passenger bill of rights is not new, but there hasn’t quite been a “movement” yet. The issue is getting some fresh attention lately, though.

Looking back a few years, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has a longstanding proposal for a bill of rights. The airlines, predictably, oppose such a measure, and have been able to keep it off the books. 

As far as the new efforts to get a bill of rights going, I can’t find a petition address. However, there is a blog titled “Coalition for Airline Passenger’s Bill of Rights,” presumably run by the lawyers for the passenger group that filed their complaints with Congress (though technically the blog is written under the pseudonym “Coalition for Reform of Airline Passenger Protocol”… or CRAPP.)

If you want to register your support, you might try leaving a comment on that blog. But above all, you should write to your senators and representatives , as well as Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.