Obese passenger forces neighbor on US Airways flight to stand for 7 hours

Arthur Berkowitz, a passenger on US Airways Flight 901 from Anchorage to Philadelphia, had no other choice but to stand up during his seven hour flight. It seems the next seat over was occupied by a passenger so overweight that it was impossible for Berkowitz to stay in his seat. Now, Berkowitz is speaking out about the ordeal.

“I didn’t fly from Alaska to Philadelphia on Flight 901,” Berkowitz told consumer advocate Chris Elliott, “I stood.”

The neighboring 400-pound man’s body spilled over into Berkowitz’s personal space so much that he was forced to stand for most of the 7 hour flight, and he couldn’t use his seat belt during takeoff and landing.

“His size required both armrests to be raised up and allowed for his body to cover half of my seat.” said Berkowitz.

US Airways apologized for the incident and said in a statement “Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible. The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.” US Air offered Berkowitz a $200 voucher in compensation.

In a poll on Elliott’s consumer watchdog site, 96% (over 17,000 votes) thought that US Airways did not offer Berkowitz enough compensation. We agree.


[Image credit: AP]

Airlines dominate Most Hated Companies list

most hated companiesThis week, The Atlantic used The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) data to compile a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America. Joining Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Facebook all with a score of 64 or more out of 100 are even lower-scoring American Airlines (63), United Airlines (61), and US Airways (61). Worst of all air carriers? Delta Air Lines scoring an ultra low 56 on the index.

On Delta, The Atlantic notes:

“Complaints include additional costs for food, beverages and baggage fees. The airline collected more than $952 million in baggage fees from flyers in 2010, almost twice as much as any other airline carrier.

Since acquiring Northwest airlines in 2008, Delta’s consumer satisfaction score has plunged. According to ACSI, a big merger in service companies usually have a negative impact on customer services in the short-term, because of organization issues. Delta’s rating dropped another 6 points this year.”

The results add to concerns noted by Gadling back in April when we reported on America’s Meanest Airlines after 2011’s Airline Quality Report came out. Those results:Meanest major carrier: United Airlines
Meanest regional carrier: American Eagle
Most complained about airline: Delta Air Lines
Most likely to be unsafe: Jetblue
Most likely to overcharge for bags: Delta Airlines/ US Airways / Continental
Most likely to bump you: American Eagle
Most likely to be late: Comair
Most likely to mishandle your bag: American Eagle

One wonders if there might be a link between companies that are hated and companies that are mean.

Are there any companies on this list that you hate? Tell your story in the comments section…

Flickr photo by Loren Sztajer

Related Stories

  • Babies Banned From First Class

Toxic fumes found on planes, flight crews want action

Toxic fumes found on planes, flight crews want action

Pilots and flight attendants are reporting toxic fumes being released into planes. The accidental release of toxins has caused flight crew members to become sick and some hospitalized. A year later, some of those affected are still off work, looking for answers and want something done about it.

A month-long investigation by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina revealed 30 US Airways aircraft in the last year have been affected.”I’m talking because I think passengers need to know,” said one veteran flight attendant to WBTV who came forward under the condition we protected her identity. “I felt like I had to come forward for the health of myself and my co-workers.”

Apparently, toxins produced from the oil in aircraft engines are the culprit. I’m thinking of that smell that fills the cabin as the plane prepares for departure. Airlines say it’s harmless. One US Airways pilot disagrees and is concerned.

“Toxins produced from oil in the aircraft engines have caused a lot of problems with our industry,” Captain Jame Ray, a spokesperson for the U.S. Airways Pilot Association and a working pilot told WBTV. “Pilots and flight attendants alike have been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. Some remain in the hospital. We have pilots who have lost their FAA certificate because of exposure to these toxins. So it is certainly a concern we have.”

The investigation confirmed a January 2010 case where crew members were hospitalized and are still not back at work. Another case in November of 2010, ruled not toxic fumes but a power issue at the gate resulted in aircraft crew off work too.

Airline flight crew members interviewed were quick to point out that this sort of thing does not happen on every flight but that all airlines are affected. The issue seems to be more widespread than the risk of swine flu once was and as airlines regain a more healthy financial picture, others are digging in to this toxic fumes problem more.

Looking a bit deeper into the issue of toxic fumes found on planes, a 2009 survey of pilots and crew by the UK’s The Telegraph indicated that one in seven of 789 British airline staff surveyed had to take more than a month’s sick leave in the previous year.

Further investigation revealed “high levels of a dangerous toxin on several planes. Of 31 swab samples taken secretly from the aircraft cabins of popular airlines, 28 were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an anti-wear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, respiratory problems and neurological illnesses.”

While all flights may not be affected, it happens with more frequency than one might imagine. Aerotoxic Syndrome’s YouTube channel stacks up evidence of these fume events longer than planes lined up at LAX on a Friday afternoon.

US Airways increases baggage fees

US Airways increases baggage feesHere we go again. On the heels of greatly improved profits, US Airways has announced an increase of up to 80% on the charge for overweight bags.

In addition to the base price for checked bags of $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, the additional fees for overweight bags are increasing. Overweight bags that weigh between 50 and 70 pounds will see the price increase from $50 to $90. Supersized bags that weigh more than 70 pounds will go from $100 to a whopping $175.

Will other airlines follow US Air’s lead? Probably. In January 2010, Continental matched Delta’s baggage fee increase and American matched United’s fees signaling a green light for others to follow.

At the time, travel expert Arthur Frommer noted “Any hope that the big airlines might move more gently in adopting such fees has been lost”. Looks like he was right.

Increases in baggage fees might not be all air travelers have to worry about on luggage either. The FAA, burdened by reduced demand for air travel since 9-11 expects an estimated $25 billion decline in revenue over the next six years according to a government report released last week.MarketWatch.com reports “Revenues declined early in the decade because of a series of largely unforeseen events, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, that reduced the demand for air travel, resulting in a steep decline in airline industry revenue,” wrote Gerald Dillingham, the director of civil aviation studies at the GAO.

The new US Air fees go into effect, and it says this on their website, “if you bought a ticket on or after February 1 for travel on or after March 1, 2011. They may want to take another look at that policy and/or ask cruise lines about the wisdom of making a retroactive service fee.

Six cruise lines ended up having to refund $40 million in fuel surcharge fees charged to cruise passengers after they had booked their cruises. I’m not offering legal advice here but anyone who booked between February 1st and 9th might have a case.

Regardless, it’s probably time to take another good long look at packing light.

Flickr photo by Deanster1983

Federal Court reverses ban on US Airways New Mexico liquor license

US AirwaysThis week, a federal appeals court overturned a ban the had been preventing US Airways from serving alcohol on flights to and from the state of New Mexico. The ban was put in place back in 2006 after an incident involving a drunk passenger.

The passenger, Dana Papst had been served two drinks on his US Airways Albuquerque flight, despite already being intoxicated. On his drive back home from the airport, he smashed into oncoming traffic, killing himself and five others.

For years, the airline had been in court trying to get the ban overturned, but it took a federal judge to rule in their favor.

US Airways had argued that airline alcohol laws are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and not local states. Part of the states decision to ban the airline from serving alcohol was based on a history of citation for over-serving passengers.

What do you think? If an airline has a history of over-serving, should states be allowed to revoke their liquor license?

%Poll-56482%

[Photo credit: AP]