How does a company use geography to avoid doing the right thing, and what can travelers do about it? Continue reading…
Remember Barbara Smidt? She purchased a Cancun vacation package on Cyber Monday through Fresh Trips, a website promoted by Travelzoo. After she paid for her trip, she discovered that Fresh Trips was not delivering on the deal — and she would have to find other, much more expensive accommodations to complete the trip.
If he reveals the details of his awful vacation-rental experience, Terry Fedigan is afraid of what might happen. The rental property’s owner could sue — and win.
It starts with a postcard saying that you’ve won an airline ticket. To collect your prize, you have to attend a brief presentation. And that’s how they getcha.
Ever want to see how customers screw up? Then spend a few hours looking over the shoulder of a consumer advocate.
Watch the emails come in — and learn.
“Need help getting a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket,” the subject line reads on a message I received a few minutes ago.
I get a lot of travel complaints.
“Yesterday, I went to ER due to heart palpitation and chest pain,” the passenger explained. He phoned his airline to ask for a refund due to his medical condition — an understandable request, coming from someone who’s an infrequent flier.
The Justice Department’s surprise lawsuit to block the proposed $11 billion consolidation of American Airlines and US Airways appears to doom the latest airline mega-merger, at least in its current form. But for airline passengers, the prospect of two stand-alone airlines is mostly good news.
Stopping the transaction will keep airfares affordable and fees in check by maintaining the present level of competition, according to the federal government. It will also give consumers more choices in air travel. “By challenging this merger, the Department of Justice is saying that the American people deserve better,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a prepared statement. Six states — including Arizona and Texas, where US Airways and American, respectively, are based — and the District of Columbia joined the DOJ in the antitrust lawsuit.
Paul Kivett’s plane broke down twice before it could take off from Chicago this summer. He arrived in Paris almost five hours late.
It’s not hard to image how much louder the public outcry would have been during the pat-down controversy last year if the Transportation Security Administration had also shut down it Screening Partnership Program, which allowed airports to privatize their security.
After all, private screeners were seen as a loophole to avoid increasingly aggressive federal transportation security officers. Several airports were reportedly considering “firing” their TSA screeners after the new body-scanners began appearing, accompanied by more intrusive physical searches.
In short, the program was an escape valve through which the traveling public let out a steam of rage. Had it not been there, who knows what would have happened?
But here’s more evidence that the federal agency charged with protecting our transportation systems understands the importance of timing. It waited until yesterday — two months after the enhanced-screening media circus — to freeze the program. I wonder how long they’ve been meaning to do that.
So what does that mean to us?
I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who helped:
• My Florida-based attorney, Greg Herbert of Greenberg Traurig in Orlando, who understood that this was about more than a blogger being sued by a travel agency. The case raised some important First Amendment and press freedom issues, and I’m grateful that he saw them and was willing to devote his energies to helping me.
• The Society of Professional Journalists’ Legal Defense Fund, which awarded me a grant to help with my legal expenses. In particular, I want to thank Clint Brewer, chair of the SPJ National Legal Defense Fund, and Salley Shannon of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, both of whom were instrumental in making the grant happen.
• My lawyer, Anthony Elia, who told me six months ago that the case was over. Anthony — you were right.
• The Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which helped me find legal representation, and Charles Davis, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and Creve Coeur City Council Member Laura Bryant, who introduced me to the Berkman Center.
• The various media outlets and blogs who covered my case, including Diane Lade at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Jim Gaines at Orlando Weekly, Jim Walker at Cruise Law News and SLAPP expert Marc Randazza.
• None of this would have been possible without you, the readers of this site. Many of you offered to help by writing to your elected representatives, encouraging them to restart Florida’s stalled investigation into travel agencies that sold unlicensed insurance. It was your phone calls, emails and letters that pushed the state of Florida to finish this investigation, which has led to numerous settlement agreements with travel agencies.
After this experience, I feel a responsibility to get behind new laws that would prohibit so-called SLAPP suits, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. The Citizen Participation Act (H.R. 4364) is a good start, as is supporting a group like the Public Participation Project.
Thank you, all.
(Photo: v ernhart/Flickr Creative Commons)
Editor’s note: This is part eleven in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.
As someone who is currently being sued, you might think I’m the last person who would support a new rule that would allow more people to file a lawsuit against an airline.
But you’d be wrong.
True, getting sued is no fun. But I don’t think the airlines are having fun, anyway. Maybe their passengers will after this passes.
At issue is something called a choice of forum. Forum choice, in the legal sense, is a clause that allows the the parties to agree that any litigation resulting from a contract will be initiated in a specific court.