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Southwest ends its $5 happy hour deal

Southwest says its drink prices are still competitive, but consumers who must drink mid-flight have a cheaper option

Southwest Airlines’ “$5 Happy Hour, every hour” is no more. The U.S.-based airline, which has long offered some of the cheapest prices on cocktail and beer...

Airlines suing Washington state over new sick leave law

The suit argues that the law is unconstitutional for Washington-based airline employees

A group of airlines including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines is suing Washington state over its mandatory paid sick leave law.

Airlines for America argues that the new sick leave law, which went into effect Jan. 1, goes against the federal Airline Deregulation Act and could increase costs and delays for travelers due to overlapping regulations and requirements.

"Airlines cannot operate their nationwide systems properly if flight crews are subject to the employment laws of every state in which they are based, live, or pass through," the airlines said in a statement.

Inconsistencies

The trade group argues that imposing the new sick leave law on Washington-based pilots and flight attendants is unconstitutional because they spend most of their working hours outside of the state.

In 2016, Washington voters adopted the Paid Sick Leave Act, which established a statewide minimum wage and required employers to provide dedicated paid sick leave to every employee.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Tuesday, said that at least six other states and 30 cities have paid sick leave laws.

"A flight crew departing from SeaTac International Airport, landing in Portland International Airport, and continuing to San Diego International Airport is subject to three different paid sick leave laws in a single duty period, each with its own accrual, compensation, reporting, and leave requirements," the group explained.

The group says the new law will make it harder for employers to spot fraud and abuse of sick leave policy since it restricts when employers can demand medical documentation for sick leave. They say this will lead to more employees calling in sick, which will in turn result in more flight cancellations or delays.

"We know there's a lot of passion and concern about the sick leave law, so we're not surprised by this action today," said Tim Church, a spokesperson for Washington's Department of Labor and Industries.

A group of airlines including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines is suing Washington state over its mandatory paid sick leave law....

Google Flights adds two new features

The app now predicts delays and shows what's included in economy fares

Google has tweaked its Google Flights app, adding predictions about airline flight delays and spelling out more clearly what's included in basic economy fares.

"One of the most stressful parts of traveling happens between heading to the airport and waiting to board your flight, as you start checking to see if your flight is on time," the company writes in its blog. "Flights already shows delays, and now we’re sharing reasons for those delays and delay predictions too."

Using a machine learning algorithm, the app scans and analyzes historic flight status data and predicts which flights will take off on time and which may be delayed. Google says its Flights app will often have the information before the airlines do.

While the app will include official announcements from the airlines about the status of flights, it will also offer predictions, which Google says should be 80 percent accurate.

"We still recommend getting to the airport with enough time to spare, but hope this information can manage expectations and prevent surprises," Google said.

To access the flight status information, users enter the airline flight number and route and the details will pop up.

What's included in an economy fare?

Google Flights will also help travelers sort out the details of rock-bottom fares on three airlines -- United, American, and Delta.

Because studies have shown that consumers will pick a flight because its fare is as little as $2 cheaper, most airlines just advertise the base fare and put the growing number of fees in the fine print. The Flights app tries to focus attention on the add-on costs, at least for these three major airlines.

For example, the app will reveal whether a basic economy fare provides space in the overhead storage bin, allows you to select your seat, and what it costs to check luggage.

Google has tweaked its Google Flights app, adding predictions about airline flight delays and spelling out more clearly what's included in basic economy fa...

American Airlines warns of higher fares

Here's how travelers can help offset rising ticket prices

As it reported better than expected earnings this week, American Airlines told investors it would likely raise fares to offset higher fuel costs.

American CEO Doug Parker said jet fuel costs rose more than 20 percent last year, to $5 billion.

"Fares are too low for oil prices this high," Parker told airline industry analysts. "Over time, you'll see adjustments. It takes time."

Consumers with long memories may recall that American and most other airlines instituted fees for checked bags and other once complimentary perks after 2008 to compensate for rising fuel costs. However, they didn't drop the fees once fuel prices began to go down in 2015.

Advantages for retirees

If the trend is gradually rising airfares in 2018, consumers will have to work harder to find bargain fares. CheapOAir.com (an Accredited Partner), a budget airfare marketplace, says retirees may be best equipped to handle the new air travel economy because they usually have more flexibility in their plans.

Avoiding a destination's busiest season is the best way to find a bargain. By doing some research in advance, you can potentially save a lot of money by knowing when the airlines, hotels, and rental car companies are most in need of business.

In 2017, the company says international destinations most popular with seniors and retirees saw the biggest differential in airfare between the slowest and busiest times.

Consumers who traveled from the U.S. to China in September instead of June saved an average of 37 percent on airfare. Those who traveled to Spain last February instead of last June shaved 36% off their fares.

Going to Australia in August, when winter is ending in the Southern Hemisphere, saved 29 percent over those who traveled in December, when summer was just beginning down under.

A travel credit card helps

Signing up for a good travel credit card is another way to make airfare more affordable by taking advantage of the different types of perks they might offer. The co-branded CheapOair (an Accredited Partner) credit card by Synchrony Financial offers customers access to an enhanced loyalty program and includes a special financing offer to help manage the cost of travel.

The Capital One Venture Card provides a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from the account's opening. That's equal to $500 in travel.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card carries 80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 on purchases during the first three months of account activity. That's worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

CheapOAir (an Accredited Partner) advises consumers to carefully research fares before booking. The company says airlines now charge extra for everything from checked luggage to seat selection. In most cases, you'll find those charges in the fine print, not in the base fare.

As it reported better than expected earnings this week, American Airlines told investors it would likely raise fares to offset higher fuel costs.Americ...

2017 was the safest year ever for air travel

Expert says safety has been improving for two decades

Air travel might not have been any more pleasant last year, but it was commercial aviation's safest year ever, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network (ASN).

The group recorded just 10 fatal accidents and 79 deaths in 2017 involving airliners, with none occurring in the U.S. In 2016, there were 16 accidents costing 303 lives.

Last year's accidents all involved cargo planes or smaller, propeller-driven passenger aircraft. No jetliners were lost.

While President Trump was quick to link what he called his "strict" approach to commercial aviation to improved safety, one expert credits a number of factors that have made the skies safer over the last two decades.

"I think continuous learning from accidents and sharing knowledge and improvements worldwide contributed over the years to safety, and still contributes," ASN President Harro Ranter told ConsumerAffairs.

Changing aviation culture

Ranter says aviation culture has changed over the last two decades to emphasize safety. For example, he points to policy changes that have encouraged pilots to anonymously report any safety issues they may encounter, even mistakes they made themselves, without having to fear sanctions.

"Airlines and authorities analyze those reports and can take action to make the operation of the airline safer, or even take valuable safety lessons for everyone in the industry," Ranter said.

The U.S. has been at the forefront of improved flight safety. Since November 12, 2001, when American Airlines flight 571 crashed on takeoff in a Queens, N.Y. neighborhood, there have been no major passenger jet crashes among U.S.-chartered airlines.

During that time there were fatal crashes involving commuter aircraft in Charlotte, N.C., Lexington, Ky., and Clarence, N.Y. In 2013, an Asiana Airlines jet crash landed at San Francisco International Airport, killing two passengers.

Global airlines are catching up

Most recently, the world's air safety record has improved. Ranter credits international industry organizations like ICAO, IATA, and EASA in Europe.

"ICAO has audited every member state to see how well they have implemented all international standards and recommended practices," Ranter said. "It gives countries a clear insight into how they're doing and where they should do better."

IATA does the same by only allowing airlines to become a member after they pass a safety audit that must be renewed.

Along with better training, more sophisticated equipment has made flying jet aircraft safer. Data is constantly collected and analyzed -- mostly for more efficient operations -- but Ranter says the analysis provides information the airlines use to create policies that promote safety.

Air travel might not have been any more pleasant last year, but it was commercial aviation's safest year ever, according to data from the Aviation Safety N...

Southwest offers cheap flights for the upcoming holiday season

The limited-time sale covers flights originating from across the country

Travelers planning holiday flights will want to move quickly on Southwest's ultra-cheap deals happening now through Thursday, October 12 at 11:59 p.m.

On its site, the airline says that travelers can book one-way trips for nonstop domestic routes for as little as $49, but longer trips across the country or to destinations outside the U.S. can cost upwards of $150. The sale features flights originating from nearly 100 destinations, including major airports like Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Chicago.

While the deal will only last until 11:59 p.m. on October 12, all purchased flights must be limited to travel between October 31 and December 19 of this year, or between January 3 and February 14 of 2018.

Other restrictions – including exemptions for weekend flights and trips to certain international locations – are detailed under the web page’s terms and conditions.

Travelers planning holiday flights will want to move quickly on Southwest's ultra-cheap deals happening now through Thursday, October 12 at 11:59 p.m.O...

How new airline boarding procedures could curb the spread of diseases

Researchers say reducing the amount of contact between passengers could be the key

When major disease epidemics strike, airlines are often forced to shut down travel between countries to stop outbreaks from spreading. But a recent study by Florida State University (FSU) researchers shows that changing boarding procedures could drastically reduce transmissions rates.

Ashok Srinivasan, a computer science associate professor, and his team found that the current zoned boarding procedures used by many airlines plays a major role in the spread of disease. To fix the problem, Srinivasan suggests sacrificing some efficiency to reduce clustered contact between passengers.

"There's been a lot of boarding and deplaning research framed in terms of speed and efficiency, but we aren't looking for efficiency. We're looking to decrease the spread of disease," he said. "It turns out that procedures that are generally good at getting people onto a plane very fast are also very bad at preventing infection."

Reducing spread of infection

Using sophisticated computer simulations and algorithms, the researchers analyzed how airline travel procedures affected the spread of infection for major diseases. They found that deplaning tended to be much less dangerous than boarding because passengers weren’t forced to congregate in large groups.

"While deplaning is a fairly fast and efficient process in terms of avoiding the spread of infection, our model shows that boarding the plane is the big problem. When you have many zones, people in the same zone tend to come very close to each other, close enough to easily transmit infections," said Srinivasan.

So, how can we avoid spreading diseases during the boarding process? The researchers suggest that airlines adopt a two-zone system that divides the plane lengthwise and lets passengers board randomly. Doing so, they say, would help reduce the amount of time that travelers are in contact with each other and cut transmission rates.

Worth the wait

In a model of the system, the researchers found that the probability of an Ebola outbreak spreading to 20 new people per month was reduced from 67% under the currently used system to 13% under the suggested system.

"When you have passengers board randomly, people are less likely to spend extended periods of time close to each other," Srinivasan said. "On the whole, random boarding does take longer, but if passengers had to choose between getting Ebola and being seated a few minutes later, we suspect they'd prefer the latter."

"When outbreaks occur, there are often calls for wholesale flight cancellations, but this can harm countries that are already reeling under the onslaught of an epidemic," he continued. "Our research provides insight on the tradeoffs involved in the different policy options. Decision makers need to consider which policies are best, the practical steps that need to be taken and which tradeoffs they're willing to make."

The full study has been published in Physical Review.

When major disease epidemics strike, airlines are often forced to shut down travel between countries to stop outbreaks from spreading. But a recent study b...

Disaster barely averted at San Francisco International Airport

Landing jet nearly crashed into four other airliners last month

Airline crashes, once almost commonplace, are now pretty rare. Better training, better equipment, and enhanced safety protocols have saved countless lives in the last two decades.

But that's not to say that there haven't been some extremely close calls, the most recent occurring last month at San Francisco International Airport.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reveals an Air Canada jet that was landing at the airport very nearly crashed into four other airliners full of passengers sitting on a taxiway.

Air Canada flight 759, an Airbus A320, was preparing to land on runway 28R at San Francisco. But instead, it approached on parallel taxiway C, which is not a runway.

There, four other airliners were lined up, waiting to get clearance to takeoff. Among the four planes were two Boeing 787 Dreamliners. A collision would undoubtedly have led to a catastrophic loss of life.

'Advanced the thrust levers'

Fortunately, the NTSB report notes that when the plane was just 100 feet above the ground, the flight crew saw the other aircraft and "advanced the thrust levers to initiate a go-around" just in time to overfly the first aircraft, missing it by an estimated 59 feet.

The NTSB reports said night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the incident. The agency said it was notified of the incident two days later and began its investigation. However, since that time the plane's cockpit voice recorder had been overwritten, so it did not have access to that data.

The report notes that at the time of the incident, Runway 28L was closed because of construction and its approach and runway lights were turned off. Runway and approach lighting for runway 28R, the runway the Air Canada jet was instructed to use, were on and set to default settings.

The report does not reach a conclusion as to the cause of the incident. The NTSB said it plans to interview members of the flight crew and review Air Canada records.

Airline crashes, once almost commonplace, are now pretty rare. Better training, better equipment, and enhanced safety protocols have saved countless lives...

American Airlines announces new baggage alert system

Customers will now be notified if their baggage is delayed and advised on steps they can take

Nothing annoys air travelers quite so much as arriving at their destination only to get stuck waiting at baggage claim for luggage that never comes. While airline companies are constantly striving to reduce the amount of lost or delayed luggage, many are also looking into ways of promptly notifying customers when something goes wrong.

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it will be doing just that with the introduction of its Customer Baggage Notification (CBN) system. The company says that CBN will notify customers about the status of their checked baggage shortly after they land if it was not on the same plane. The system will also provide information on the next steps fliers should take.

“CBN is an exciting innovation that helps take care of our customers and our team members. Customers get more information quickly and our team members get more time to help those who have complicated baggage claims,” American Airlines said.

Customer alerts

American Airlines says that fliers who use the CBN system will receive one of three types of alerts when they land at their destination. They include:

  • Early Baggage Arrival: This message lets fliers know that their baggage has arrived before them and will direct them of where to go to pick it up.
  • Late Baggage Arrival – Go to the Baggage Service Office: This alert tells customers that their baggage will be arriving late and directs them to see an agent at the BSO office to resolve the issue.
  • Late Baggage Arrival – Mobile Baggage Order (MBO): This alert will advise travelers to fill out a Mobile Baggage Order (MBO) on their mobile device. The form will ask for the customer’s delivery details and a bag description to help expedite the process of getting checked luggage back to its owner. Taking this step will allow customers to forego going to the Baggage Service Office to file a claim.

To receive alerts from the CBN system, customers will have to download the American Airlines app, sign up for an AAdvantage account, or provide contact information during booking or check-in.

Nothing annoys air travelers quite so much as arriving at their destination only to get stuck waiting at baggage claim for luggage that never comes. While...

U.S. to lift laptop ban for flights from Middle Eastern countries

However, airlines will soon have to adapt to new security measures

Back in March, the U.S. Transportation Department imposed a ban that prohibited electronic devices from airline cabins on some flights originating in Middle Eastern countries. The news was not received well by critics, who said that the new rule would put a strain on U.S. relations with foreign nations and business interests.

But just last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced new security measures for commercial flights coming to the U.S., and among the changes was a proposed rollback of the electronics ban. Now, it seems that rollback is just about complete.

According to a Reuters report, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lifted the electronics ban for passengers traveling on Saudi Arabian Airlines on Monday, the last carrier that was still affected by the restrictions.

With the lifting of the ban from King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabian Airlines main hub, the only airport still affected by the ban is King Khalid International Airport. However, TSA officials said that they will be visiting that location “later this week to confirm compliance there as well.”

Complying with new security measures

Regarding the new security measures it released in June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also issued a revised directive to all airlines that will be going into effect later this week on July 19.

The directive explains in more detail what steps airlines will have to take to avoid new restrictions on laptops in cabins. These include increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, expanded canine screening, closer inspection of electronic devices, and additional checkpoints where travelers will need to be cleared before departure. Airlines also have until July 19 to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening.

Airline groups have criticized the new requirements, saying that they will be “extremely difficult” to implement and that the deadlines are too restrictive because of a “lack of availability of screening equipment technology and resources.” But TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein says the new requirements are necessary for addressing future threats and keeping electronics available on flights.

“As we look to stay ahead of the evolving threats, we’ll be working with global aviation stakeholders to expand security measures even further,” she said in a statement, adding that recent world events have led to a “web of threats to commercial aviation.”

Back in March, the U.S. Transportation Department imposed a ban that prohibited electronic devices from airline cabins on some flights originating in Middl...

Infant passenger briefly hospitalized after tarmac delay

Mother of four month-old said the child overheated as cabin temperatures spiked

Parents have been told repeatedly not to leave young children in a hot car, and most by now have gotten the message.

So the mother of four month-old Owen France was very concerned when their United Airlines flight was delayed on the tarmac Thursday afternoon at Denver International Airport and the cabin temperature began to spike.

The child's mother, Emily France, said her son's body temperature rapidly rose to the point that he became overheated. During the nearly two-hour delay, she told the Denver Post it got worse.

"I really thought my son was going to die in my arms," she told the newspaper.

United's response

In a statement issued to NBC News, United said the plane returned to the gate and was met by paramedics, who rushed the baby to a hospital, where he was treated and released.

"This should never have happened,” the airline told NBC News. “We are profoundly sorry to our customer and her child for the experience they endured. We are actively looking into what happened to prevent this from occurring again.”

Tarmac delays are not uncommon, though federal regulations impose penalties on airlines when they extend beyond a certain length of time. The consumer group FlyersRights.org says if a boarded aircraft remains on the tarmac for three hours without taking off, it must return to the gate and allow passengers to get off if they desire.

After two hours, the airline must offer stranded passengers water and food. At all times, the group says, the airline must provide working lavatories and appropriate medical care.

Why so hot?

Why does it get so hot on a plane when it's sitting on the tarmac? Part of the problem, The Economist notes, is that the U.S. tarmac rule does not set any requirement for maintaining cabin temperature during delays.

While most commercial aircraft are able to maintain some level of air conditioning without the main engines running, the air output apparently is not as strong as when the plane is in the air.

If the outside temperature is unusually high, as was the case in Denver this week, the auxiliary power often can't offset the extreme outside temperature.

Parents have been told repeatedly not to leave young children in a hot car, and most by now have gotten the message.So the mother of four month-old Owe...

Officials announce new security measures for commercial flights coming to the U.S.

The new measures will roll back a previous electronics ban implemented in March

Back in March, U.S. officials announced a laptop ban on certain flights originating from 10 airports in eight countries, a measure meant to address the threat of in-flight bombs being smuggled in electronics.

The new rule was met with an outcry from all corners and did little to ease tensions between the U.S. and foreign countries. But in an announcement yesterday, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly proposed a new set of security measures that will roll back the restriction, according to a Reuters report.

“We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed,” he said.

“Today I am announcing a first step toward this goal by requiring new security measures to be applied to all commercial flights coming into the United States. These measures will be both seen and unseen, and they will be phased in over time.”

Increasing security protocols

The new security measures include increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, expanded canine screening, closer inspection of electronic devices, and additional checkpoints where travelers will need to be cleared before departure.

The new measures would apply to 180 airlines in 280 airports from 105 countries, affecting nearly 325,000 airline passengers on 2,100 commercial flights arriving in the United States daily. U.S. officials say that airlines have 21 days to implement explosive trace detection screening and 120 days to comply with all the other proposed changes.

Kelly said that airlines that do not meet the new security requirements could still face in-cabin electronics bans, but at the same time he expressed confidence that 99% of airlines would comply.

Additionally, officials stated that the 10 countries currently subject to an electronics ban can be removed from that category if they meet the new requirements, but they did not say how long that process might take.

More changes coming

While travelers, especially those who pay for business class seats, may be relieved at the lifting of the electronics ban, industry trade groups have spoken out against the Department of Homeland Security for not working more closely with them in crafting the new policies.

“The development of the security directive should have been subject to a greater degree of collaboration and coordination to avoid the significant operational disruptions and unnecessarily frustrating consequences for the traveling public that appear likely to happen,” said Nicholas E. Calio, Chief Executive of the trade group Airlines for America (A4A).

However, it’s likely that the agency and trade groups will have ample opportunity to work together going forward. In his announcement, Kelly said that these changes are only among the first that will be implemented, with short-term, medium-term, and longer-term improvements slated to take effect over the next year.

Back in March, U.S. officials announced a laptop ban on certain flights originating from 10 airports in eight countries, a measure meant to address the thr...

Passenger group warns against privatizing air traffic control

But White House has cleared the overhaul for take-off

A group representing airline passengers is warning that a proposal to privatize the nation's air traffic control system won't turn out well for consumers.

FlyersRights.org expressed concern as top executives of the airline industry headed to the White House Monday to discuss the plan.

Currently, air traffic controllers are under the direction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But Paul Hudson, president of the consumer group and member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, said the plan under consideration essentially turns the system over to the airlines.

He's concerned that putting such a system in place would lead to new fees and taxes for passengers to pay. Kate Hanni, FlyersRights.org founder, is also dismayed.

'Political handout'

"This unfortunately provides another political handout to a highly-concentrated industry with a terrible track record of leaving passengers on the tarmac for hours without food and water, cramming paying customers into inhumane seats, and verbally and physically assaulting them all while charging for everything under the sun," Hanni said.

FlyersRights.org lists several reasons it says the air traffic control system should not be turned over to an airline-controlled entity.

First, it says the FAA has been working on upgrades to the air traffic control system and should have it completed by 2020. The airlines, the group charges, have been holding things up by not installing the necessary equipment on aircraft.

Second, privatizing the system would likely disrupt that modernization effort, remove Congressional oversight, and create a monopoly that has the power to tax consumers.

Finally, the group says other nations that have tried to privatize their air traffic control systems have usually encountered problems, requiring taxpayers to step in and bail out the private entity.

'Least-capable industry'

In a statement, FlyersRights.org calls the airlines "the least-capable industry" to run air traffic control, pointing to recent computer outages and customer relations meltdowns. It claims airline problems, including broken planes and tardy flight crews, are responsible for most of the delays in the system.

But after meeting with airline executives Monday, President Trump left little doubt that he supports the plan to remove air traffic control from the FAA's jurisdiction.

Trump said a private system would reduce wait times, increase route efficiency, and eliminate many delays.

A group representing airline passengers is warning that a proposal to privatize the nation's air traffic control system won't turn out well for consumers....

Delta latest airline to face consumer lawsuit

Passenger claims he was assaulted aboard a flight in 2015

For the airlines, the world changed on April 9, 2017.

That's when United Airlines summoned Chicago airport police to forcibly remove a passenger on a Louisville bound flight after he refused to give up his seat to a United employee. Video of the incident was recorded by numerous passengers, sparking world-wide outrage.

Since then airlines have been subjected to intense scrutiny by passengers, fed up with the often unpleasant rigors of today's commercial air travel. Every encounter, it seems, is now recorded on smartphones and Tweeted around the world.

Though not every incident ends up in court, some do. The latest is a complaint filed against Delta Airlines by a passenger who says he was assaulted by members of a Delta flight crew during a flight from Atlanta to Palm Springs, Calif., two years ago.

Alleges assault and battery

Courthouse News, which obtained a copy of the complaint, reports Atef Bandary is seeking damages for assault and battery, emotional distress, and charges the airline with negligence. According to the 14-page document, this is what Bandary alleges:

During the flight, he says he asked a flight attendant for some water and a light snack, because he needed to take medication that required it to be taken with food. Bandary said the request was denied.

Bandary, who says he is HIV positive, took the medication without food and says that caused a case of diarrhea. He says when he got up to go to the lavatory, a flight attendant ordered him to sit down. He says he explained the situation -- including the fact that he is HIV positive -- to no avail.

Forcibly restrained

When he insisted he must use the toilet, he says the flight attendant notified the captain, who enlisted a fellow passenger who was a law enforcement officer, to forcibly restrain him, in the process injuring his shoulder.

Adding insult to injury, he says during the altercation his pants fell down around his ankles and, despite his pleas, those subduing him refused to pull up his pants.

Delta later pressed charges against Bandary and he was indicted on criminal charges of interfering with a flight crew member. After hiring a lawyer, he says the jury acquitted him.

In his suit against the airline, Bandary also charges the airline targeted him because he is a naturalized citizen, is gay, and because he had complained about the service on the flight.

Bandary does not specify the monetary damages he seeks. Rather, he says he wants the court to determine the amount, should it find in his favor.

File photoFor the airlines, the world changed on April 9, 2017.That's when United Airlines summoned Chicago airport police to forcibly remove a p...

United accused of flying plane 'not in airworthy condition'

FAA charges jet made 23 flights in 2014 without a repair inspection

United Airlines faces a $435,000 civil penalty from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for allegedly flying a plane "that was not in airworthy condition."

The agency said the incident occurred three years ago.

According to the FAA, United mechanics replaced a fuel pump pressure switch on one of the new Boeing 787 jets in response to a problem highlighted by the flight crew two days earlier. The FAA charges United failed to perform an inspection of the repair before the plane was put back in service.

The FAA complaint alleges the airline used the plane on 23 flights before it inspected the work 19 days later. It further maintains United used the plane on two flights after being notified by the FAA that the inspection had not been completed. Under FAA rules, the plane did not meet the technical requirements of being airworthy on all 23 flights.

“Maintaining the highest levels of safety depends on operators closely following all applicable rules and regulations,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Failing to do so can create unsafe conditions.”

United has not commented publicly but the FAA says the airline has requested a meeting with the agency to discuss the case.

United Airlines faces a $435,000 civil penalty from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for allegedly flying a plane "that was not in airworthy condi...

Delta airlines testing facial recognition technology

Will be used at automated bag drop for international travelers

Airlines are under increasing pressure to do something -- anything -- to improve the customer experience. Delta says it may have a way to do that.

The airline said it will test facial recognition technology at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer. The technology will be employed at four self-serve bag drops, allowing passengers to check their bags themselves.

One of the stations, for international travelers, will be equipped with the facial recognition technology, matching passengers with their passport photos.

"We expect this investment and new process to save customers time," said Gareth Joyce, a senior vice president at Delta. "And, since customers can operate the biometric-based bag drop machine independently, we see a future where Delta agents will be freed up to seek out travelers and deliver more proactive and thoughtful customer service."

Increasingly automated

Airports are becoming increasingly automated, and Delta sees this as just the next, natural step in that process. Previously, the airline began attaching radio frequency identification technology (RFID)tags to luggage, to keep better track of it.

"We're making travel easier than ever for our customers and continuing to deliver a leading customer experience," Joyce said.

The effort comes at a time when airlines are under pressure from passengers and policymakers. After the forcible removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight April 9, almost every instance of passenger angst aboard a commercial aircraft is recorded and spread across social media.

For its part, Delta said it will collect passenger feedback during the Minnesota trial and run process analyses to make sure this addition of technology not only saves the airline money, but improves the overall customer experience.

Delta says it believes it will. It cites studies it says show that self-service bag drops have the potential to process twice as many customers per hour.

Airlines are under increasing pressure to do something -- anything -- to improve the customer experience. Delta says it may have a way to do that.The a...

Spirit Airlines pilots face federal court order to go back to work

The decision bars pilots from participating in any slowdown efforts

Yesterday, we reported that Spirit Airlines had taken legal action against its pilots for an alleged slowdown that resulted from a contract dispute. The airliner said that the pilots’ actions put the safety of customers and staff members at risk after a brawl ensued at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a flight cancellation.

“These pilots have put their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members,” company spokesperson Paul Berry said.

Now, it looks like that legal action is producing results. The Washington Post reports that a federal court granted Spirit Airlines a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, which is meant to put an end to a “pervasive illegal work slowdown.” Spirit says that the pilots’ actions have resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations that have affected thousands of travelers.

Court order

The court decision, which was issued on Tuesday morning, found that the pilots’ actions violated the Railway Labor Act because it interrupted normal flight operations. The order mandates that the pilots and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) cease “from calling, permitting, instigating authorizing, encouraging, participating in, approving, or continuing any form of interference” with Spirit’s airline operations until further hearings are conducted.

The order is pretty broad and bars the defendants from any concerted effort to refuse their normal pilot operations, including refusal of voluntary or overtime flight assignments and any slowdown efforts.

The court said that issuing the restraining order was necessary to help Spirit avoid suffering “immediate and irreparable damage in the form of damage to its business reputation and customer goodwill, increased costs for measures designed to avoid flight delays and cancellations, and loss of revenue and associated costs caused by flight delays and cancellations.”

Restoring normal operations

In response to the decision, the ALPA said that it would continue its efforts to return Spirit to normal operations.

“The court has spoken and Spirit pilots will fully comply with the order handed down, which is completely in line with our overriding goal: the resumption of normal operations. We call on the company to join forces with ALPA and the Spirit pilots to do just that,” the union said in a statement.

“We are hopeful