advertisement

After a harrowing nine-hour delay while stuck on a runway, traveler Kate Hanni decided to do something for flyers' rights. Host David Lytle speaks with Hanni about the events that led up to the creation of the Coalition for the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights and what you can do to make your next flight better.

To listen this episode, click the "play" button on the MP3 player below.


To download this episode to your hard drive, click here. To listen to previous episodes or to subscribe, visit www.frommers.com/podcast/.


Top Tips from This Podcast

See transcript below for links to more information.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

David Lytle: Welcome to the Frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit www.Frommers.com.
Announcer: This podcast is sponsored by Visa Signature, a line of luxury rewards cards that gets you benefits beyond rewards. Learn more at VisaSignature.com.

Hi, this is David Lytle, editorial director for Frommers.com. Today we're talking with Kate Hanni who's the founder of the Coalition for the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights. Hi, Kate.
Kate Hanni: Hi. How are you doing?
David: I'm doing quite well. You have an interesting story. You had a horrible incident happen to you that really turned you into a citizen advocate. So why don't we just start at the very beginning before we get into what the Passenger Bill of Rights entails. What happened to you?
Kate: To give you even further background in about five seconds, people should know that we travel a lot. My husband is in the wine industry, and he was in charge of international accounts for Beringer Winery for a long time. Not for the last eight years, but for a long, long time - 12 years.

We have traveled all over the world and have never had a problem like this. We love traveling. We were on our way to Point Clear, Alabama, where he was going to do some wine programs in exchange for a vacation that he had negotiated for free for our family. I've got two children that have quite a spread in age, so I rarely get to have the whole family together.
David: Right.
Kate: We were leaving from San Francisco to go to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and catch a connecting flight to Mobile, Alabama; and then drive to Point Clear for a five-day vacation.
David: Nice.
Kate: It was going to be really nice. They have a nice spa there. It was going to be a really relaxing thing.

And for those that don't know, and many people do because it's been written in the news, I had been assaulted about six months earlier, while showing a house as a real estate broker. I was almost killed.
David: I didn't know that part of the story. I'm sorry.
Kate: So I had taken six months off prior to this vacation to recover from attempted rape and attempted murder. I'm on this flight, doing very well and excited about having my family together for this vacation. The intention was to have a restorative vacation and then go back to work for the first time when we returned.

So we take off from San Francisco, head toward DFW, get over air space at DFW, and were told that there was bumpy air. The plane would be diverted to Austin, sit for a few minutes and then wait for the weather to clear up over DFW.

Well, they put us down in Austin at approximately noon. And at 9:30 PM, we are finally taken to a gate, which is against the rules. Our pilot, without permission, takes us to the gate. Now in between that time....
David: Between noon and 9PM.
Kate: Yeah, 9:03PM was when he put his foot down on the accelerator, and tells us that without permission, he's going to drive the plane into a gate. It was a remarkably slow entrance into the gate.

We watched ambulances going to planes. We saw people walking their dogs on the tarmac. We had overflowing toilets. We had no food, and no potable water, only water from the bathroom sinks.

My kids were great about it, but there were really tiny children who weren't. My kids are 21 and 11, so they were a little older and had patience, although it ran out at about the seventh hour.
David: Right.
Kate: It wasn't so difficult for them. But for the little kids, there was no place for them to go. They were just running up and down the aisles. We had babies screaming and elderly people in distress and pregnant women. Diabetics were in distress and going into shock.

We witnessed people being arrested on an adjacent plane that had gotten in a fistfight. Hazmat went to plane because a dog had pooped all over some passengers.

I was sitting in back of the cockpit, when I overheard our pilot say, "If you want to talk to me, come talk to me. I know it will ease the tension." He told us that it was an embarrassing day for American Airlines, and that they didn't negotiate a gate for us, or anyone else that night.

What most people don't know is that there were 130 planes involved in our event. 4,600 people all sitting on different tarmacs, just like we were, in American jets. I hate to single out American Airlines but it was an American Airlines event that night.

Some manager at American made a decision to not let us go to gates, because it would have cost them a certain amount of money, and they would have had to deal with the customer service issues that would ensue.

Once we did finally get off the plane, the pilots who were just sweethearts told us to go down to Baggage Claim 3, and that our bags would be taken off the plane. We were all just shell-shocked and dehydrated. The media is there to greet us, but there's no one from American Airlines. No one.
David: Right.
Kate: So we go down to Baggage Claim 3, and we're waiting for two and a half hours. We empty out the vending machine because we're starving to death and all the restaurants have closed.

We were eating Doritos and drinking Dr. Pepper, trying to make up for the 13 hours. It was absolutely fabulous. Dr. Pepper is just what you want to give your son who has ADHD.
David: Yeah, high fructose corn syrup.
Kate: And caffeine. Then we were told that they were not going to remove our bags. A security guard, not an American Airlines person, tells us that a decision had been made to 'resume' our flight the next morning, and that we should be back the next morning at 6AM. Well, now it's midnight.
David: Right.
Kate: What do we do? Should we go to a hotel and come back at 6AM with no boarding information? They never acknowledged that our flight was an arriving flight. This was like "Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events".
David: Yeah.
Kate: This went on for 57 hours.
David: Before you were able to get back on a flight?
Kate: No, before we get to Mobile.
David: Wow.
Kate: We spend the night in Austin and come back to the airport. We don't get on our flight. They can't get us into the airport easily, because we don't have boarding information. So I tipped the curbside guy $20 because I have traveled a lot, and I know that's the magic number.

So he walks us to the desk and says, "Get this family a ticket", and they make up tickets for us that have different times on them, but the same flight number, which has to be a security issue.

But anyway, we get inside and we end up walking onto a different flight because our crew is there and they tell us we're not going to be able to go, but they don't tell us why. We ask about our bags and they tell us not to worry about it, and that we should get ourselves to DFW.

We get to DFW and they tell us to run to a gate. If there's a gate going to where we're going, we should run to that gate.
David: Wow.
Kate: DFW is a large airport.
David: Yeah.
Kate: You don't run anywhere in DFW.
David: Yeah, it's a marathon.
Kate: It's a marathon, and it's humid. My oldest son, who is a recording engineering minor, has his keyboard and his stand as carry-on baggage, and my younger son has his Nintendo Wii in his backpack. We've got the disabled vehicle helping us, and then we're on the tramway. We're not that old but we're making our way over there.

And the gate changes like four times. There's one flight a day that goes to Mobile. We get to the gate and we make it in time. Nobody has boarded yet. There's like 20 minutes left.

They look at me and they go, "We have good news. Your bags are on the plane". I thought to myself, thank God. I have a copy of the Dallas Morning News with our flight from the day before on the front page, so that I could prove that we've already been through hell.
David: Right.
Kate: He says, "But I have bad news--you're not."
David: Oh, my gosh!
Kate: I said, "You mean my bags are going to Mobile, but we're not?" He's like, "That's right, and we're taking 15 more people off this flight, because we now have a weight overage due to the bags. So, you're on your own."
David: [laughs]
Kate: They offered us nothing. I said, "Don't we at least get a voucher? We got no voucher last night, and here's what we've been through." The pilot looks at me and he says, "Unless you're the Queen of England, you're not getting on this plane. Don't blame us for the weather." So, all of these things added up to my getting very angry.
David: Yeah.
Kate: It wasn't just the fact that we were stranded for nine hours.
David: Right. I kind of imagine that the pilot's comment was the tipping point.
Kate: That was the tipping point. That's when I said, "You know what? No one should be treated like this." No one ever should be treated like this.
David: Right.
Kate: What has happened to the airlines, that they could justify...I begged them, I said, "Please!" Because my son's ADHD medicine was in the bag. "Please take the bags off, we need this medicine." It's like $900 to fill this medicine.
David: Yeah.
Kate: They wouldn't do it; they wouldn't take the bags off. So the following day--so the third day into the trip, we finally get a flight to Mobile, and make it to our destination. They had given up our rooms, because they didn't get the email about what was going on.
David: Wow!
Kate: They found us some rooms. But as you can tell just from this whole sequence of events, we ended up getting two days of our vacation there. My husband did do his part and did the Wine Seminars he was there to do, but he didn't get a vacation. So, it was a mess.
David: Right. He basically got two days of work.
Kate: That's right. He got two days of work, and we got relegated to lesser rooms than we would have had. We were never reimbursed by American, and American never even responded to our or our Congressman's request.
David: They've never responded to you?
Kate: Well, now they did. About a month after I started going in the media and the media adopted the cause, and we were all over the National News. My blonde head was all over the news saying...
David: Right.
Kate: ... "American is not responding to us." Nobody's getting any vouchers, and they won't even respond to our emails. Our congressman wrote a letter, and all I got was a perforated postcard back three weeks later that said, "Dear Valued Customer, We have received your correspondence."
David: [laughs] That's so heart-warming.
Kate: Oh, isn't it? It's such a warm thing. [laughs]
David: Yeah, "Dear Valued Customer."
Kate: "Dear Valued Customer. We have received your Congressman's correspondence." It didn't say that. I know that Mike Thompson, my Congressman, knows Gerard Arpey, the President of American Airlines.
David: Right.
Kate: Yet that's the response we got. So everyone was so angry, that I decided I would take the time to gather everyone's names on Excel spreadsheets and start a blogspot.
David: Right.
Kate: Then we started the petition, and it all just exploded from there. Now we've got this huge coalition.
David: Your blog is "StrandedPassengers.blogspot.com."
Kate: That's correct. Then a couple months after that, we finally got a really great website which is called, "FlyersRights.com." You can link over to the blogspot from there, and leave your stories.
David: Yeah, no--Flyer's Fights. I love Flyer's Rights. If nothing else but for the excellent graphics you have on that site.
Kate: Isn't that awesome?
David: Right. It's like a horror story turned into a comic book.
Kate: It really is. What it is is the cards. The safety card--you know that front page?
David: Yeah.
Kate: It's designed after that.
David: [laughs] Right.
Kate: What we don't have up yet--and everything we do is from donations.
David: Right.
Kate: So, the web guy is donating his time. We got a year of web hosting donated. Everything is donated. We actually have a flash portion to the site that has not been uploaded yet. That's really cool.
David: OK.
Kate: So, that's next.
David: Yeah. So, let's get into the Bill of Rights. What is it exactly that you're asking for, and that you would like public support behind?
Kate: Well, what we originally asked for--which you can see on the website, and where we are now are very different places.
David: Right.
Kate: Obviously coming from California, and not having dealt with the legislative process, with the legislative process. I had no idea how difficult it was to get a bill in Congress and to get what you want done, even though what we are asking for seems so reasonable.

And to really simplify the conversation where we are right now is we are basically begging Congress to add to what we've got currently. And I will tell you what we have currently. On the house side, we have essential needs, which means that you would get fed and watered and have temperature control and have hygienic toilets.
David: OK.
Kate: Basically that's it on the house side other that things like accountability for the DOT; to account for the diverted and cancelled flights. I don't know if you're aware of this, but diverted and cancelled flights are not counted by the BTS for the time on the tarmac. So our flights and the jet blue flights are lost in space.
David: Yeah, I didn't know that the statistics actually are off balance.
Kate: Yes, way off balance, thousands of planes are off balanced. And we've been counting them, since we got the emails and the hotlines, and we are validating the flights and that's what we are going to testify to for the next quorum, which we believe will be on the 17th of this month. And I want to talk about that and also the issue of stranding, after we talk about the legislation.
David: Yes. I was also about to bring up the stranding as well. So we got essential needs.....
Kate: We got essential needs basically and on the Senate side, we have essential needs and we've got chronically delayed and chronically cancelled flights. Now the Senate side is telling us that there is some flexibility and we may be able to get to get deplanement added. On the House side we've had a tremendous amount of push back from Oberstar, who just doesn't understand because of those skewed numbers. The 36 jets, that they keep saying were the only jets that sat for five hours last year and we know that it's in the thousands.
David: Right.
Kate: The BTS knows that it's in the thousands. But he's saying, "It's not quantifiable". So since it cannot be quantified, I can't justify telling the airlines that they should put people off. My point would actually be to him that if it's such a small number it won't make a difference to them [laughter]. Right!
David: Exactly.
Kate: I mean there are two sides to every coin and there's a way to play every game. I did meet with his chief of staff for quite sometime and Oberstar was actually bumped from a flight three weeks ago and had to charter a plane going from Minneapolis to D.C at a cost of $1,500 but that never did make the news.
David: That's interesting. Honestly, most people can't simply charter a plane for $1,500. That is a lot of money to most people.
Kate: That is correct. That is a lot of money to most people and I did call many of my news friends like Joe Sharkey of New York Times and Alan [inaudible]. They all called Oberstar's office and they wouldn't talk about it to the news. I found that very interesting that he would get on a plane and somebody is in his seat and he'd be kicked off and have to charter a plane and that he wouldn't be angry enough about that to talk about it in the news, like most of us.
David: Well right, it seems like it would be hypocritical of him to... not that politicians are ever hypocritical, but it would be hypocritical to him to deny you a part of this bill and have the same experience and not talk about it.
Kate: You got it...you got it.
David: It means he would have to have a direct experience, revaluate his stand and possibly make a change.
Kate: Well, especially in the light of the bridge collapsing in his state, and that he's the chair of the transportation committee, I found it particularly aggrieved just at this point that he's not becoming a little more flexible, because this is the kind of the shoring up of transportation that needs too be done and which simply will protect human beings from things like blood clots, which we are going to talk about when we come to the issues of stranding.

Now we believe in Mike Thompson who wrote the bill on the House side, and we got some news yesterday from the Ways and Means side, that if our members contact their Representatives that are on the ways and means committee, there's a package that's going to be sent Oberstar's office asking for deplanement. And the reason for that is that Atlanta, which is the largest Airport in the world, just bought five buses to go out and get people off the planes. And they are not calling them stranding, they're calling them holdouts but...
David: Right. Because it sounds better.
Kate: Yeah, it sounds nice, all right, but they've had so many people sitting out on the tarmac stacked up out there and so many people missing their connecting flights in Atlanta that they're taking care of the problem and so now they're an example of what can be done to correct this.
David: Right, because at least they're there, they're putting something into play is to deal with 'holdouts' when they happen.
Kate: Yes, that's correct. I was so excited. I was so pumped when I saw that Google alert and I clicked on it and I went 'Oh, my gosh, Atlanta took care of the problem' and I knew nothing about them even considering it. Here we go and now we can use this as an example.
David: Right, and as some leverage too.
Kate: As leverage.
David: I am against in part of this from the legislative point of view as that especially from a conservative perspective; they would prefer not to legislate any sort of rules for business. They would prefer it to be a private action such as what, possibly the Atlanta airport did, would have been determined by the board members of the Atlanta airport or whatever the control is for that facility but if it's not done federally, it's going to be really difficult because then you're going to have different rules at each airport.
Kate: Well, not only that, that's a very good point and that is one of our points is that we want to have some consistency. We want to have something that people can just rely on no matter what airline they get on, that they know that after a certain amount of time; they're going to be able to get off the aircraft; because right now it's indefinite.

The other thing is that the airlines, when they do fix something, they take it away. They have the ability whenever they do make their own internal rule to remove their own internal rule at any point.

So, and that's what's been happening is that they keep promising to fix things, which right now I don't know if you've noticed, but there's this big media blitz going on because the airlines have heard not only as the IG's report about to come out, which has been floated to them and they have seen it but American Airlines are all of a sudden is coming out and saying, "Oh we're taking care of the problem", and right after Thanksgiving, this is not going to be a problem anymore, we're adding more times to our flights, we're adding more time in between for connecting flights"....
David: Do you think they'll make that change before Thanksgiving, which is the busiest travel time of the year?
Kate: Well, this summer was a mess and you would have thought that...
David: Oh absolutely.
Kate: After the hearing when Oberstar and Costello said, "If they don't fix it, we will and we're going to hold another hearing to find out how it's going", and this summer was a disaster. We started a toll free hotline and we've been getting 70 calls a day on an average people stuck in aircraft.
David: This is the 877-FLYERS6?
Kate: Yes, 877FLYER6 and then we get some baggage-related calls, too. About probably 35% of our calls are people who have their bags lost and then the remainders of the calls are people who have been stranded for four hours or more, many of them are still inside the planes when they call. [laughs] And they're like, "What do we do?"
David: [laughs] I am not laughing at the misery, I am just laughing at the... you have to laugh at it...
Kate: The absurdity, the absurdity, David, it's just like 'oh my god, how can this keep going on and that they can get away with it' and it's because they have so much money and they cry to Congress that they're always broke.

I am going to tell you a little side story about going to the DOT about a month ago, which I will forever now call the 'fountain of pork' because that building is the most luxurious building in Washington.
David: Really. I've never been there.
Kate: The Department of Transportation is an 8-storey, glass palace of mahogany cubicles and mahogany offices that has the most beautifully appointed furniture. I am a high-end real estate broker in the Napa valley and I have traveled all over the world with my husband who is a wine expert and I can tell you this matches the Mandarin Oriental, this matches any....
David: Wow.
Kate: ...great hotel that you can imagine. This is as nice as that.
David: Wow, I would love to see pictures of that. Did you guys happen to take pictures?
Kate: Well, here's the problem. You walk in and they have more screening. I nearly had to get stripped.
David: Really?
Kate: Almost stripped searched to go in, and escorted with a personal escort up to the IG's office. And they do this all by sending down a message to the front desk, you are not going into this building unless you have a tag on you, that you have to scan to get in. All of your personal effects go in and you're not allowed to take in any photographic equipment and any video equipment. They asked me, "You're not bringing any media with you, right? Who are you bringing with you?"
David: Right, so these rules are in place under the guise of...
Kate: [laughs] 911?
David: Anti-terrorism protection?
Kate: You got it.
David: As opposed to a transparency that should be clearly available in a democracy?
Kate: That's right. I was shocked, I mean, we both, Mark Mogel, our chief research director and I, we were standing there looking at this building. And looking at, there's this atrium that goes up eight floors, that's all glass with Italian paver tiles, like 20-inch Italian tile floors. I'm like, this could fit two NBA Basketball courts in its completely unused space that goes up eight stories.
David: Wow.
Kate: Even the guy that escorted me was telling me, "I forget who the architect was, but it was some famous architect that designed the building." It's unbelievable.
David: So how did your meeting go with the Department of Transportation? Did you accomplish anything?
Kate: Oh, my god. It was amazing. So, we had two meetings. We first met with the IG's office and that was with David Dobbs. And they had two other people, three other people they sprung on us at that point. They wanted to know who I was bringing, but they didn't tell me how many lawyers they were bringing into the room for the meeting, to document what we were going to say.
David: Wow.
Kate: Right. And so, basically, we were just asking questions about how could Secretary Mary Peters mandate a rule for the airlines. Could she be the one to design a rule without the Congress telling her to? We wanted to know how much latitude they had.
David: Right.
Kate: And we were asking questions, coming from our framework, which is, we have no experience. So...
David: Right. You have a steep learning curve compared to somebody who works in this all the time.
Kate: Exactly.
David: There's a lobbyist.
Kate: Exactly. Well I'm now an unpaid lobbyist that's trying to learn as fast as humanly possible.
David: Right. A citizen lobbyist.
Kate: A citizen. Citizen Kate, right?
David: Yeah.
Kate: So here's what they said though. The salient thing that we took away from this meeting, is that Dobbs looked me in the eyes and he said, "what you need to know is that none of the airlines Contracts of Carriage are enforceable, in any way, shape or form."

And none of the proposed Contracts of Carriage, that they are proposing right now to the Senate, which Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snow called for after the mark-up of our bill in April, none of those are enforceable either. Because of the language in them, the way they're written.

And we knew that they weren't, but for them to tell us that they were aware that none of them were enforceable was stunning. I mean, we just sat there going, my god, they know that none of the Contracts of Carriage are enforceable. And yet we are held to the standard of the enforceability of the contract every day.
David: Right, so it's sort of an empty exercise that they went through in even creating these.
Kate: That's correct. And yet, if you go up to customer service and say, "I need a voucher", two percent, or what is it, somewhere between two and five percent of all planes have problems due to weather. And yet every single time you go up to a customer service agent and ask for a voucher, because you've been delayed or bumped or whatever, they say it was a weather problem. [laughs] So, you know...
David: Right, right.
Kate: And then they'll refer you to the Contract of Carriage and say read it, that's our out.
David: Yeah, the trick to that though is to pull out a copy of Rule 240 which was passed in 1978, which does give you more power as a passenger than their Contracts of Carriage. Why not speak to Representatives about amending Rule 240?
Kate: That is a great point.
David: Because it's a law that already exists that has supervisions that are clearly outdated, one of them being that you get access to a telephone. Obviously, it was passed before cell phones were created...
Kate: Yes.
David: Possibly it's easier to get an amendment put in. Or maybe this is the time where you have somebody earmark it.
Kate: That's interesting, because the European Union rules mandate that they allow you access to a telephone and other things.
David: Yeah, right.
Kate: So that's a fabulous idea I hadn't thought of. And we do have some attorneys, even, on our board. No one has mentioned amending Rule 240. So, to finish the DOT conversation...
David: Sure.
Kate: We had a second meeting with the Deputy Counsel, which is Lindy Knapp and Norm Strickman and Mike Reynolds, who testified...
David: OK.
Kate: And I think there were six attorneys in this meeting. And again, here I am, surrounded by attorneys. And the bottom line is they look at us, again, and say, "Nothing in these contracts of carriage are enforceable." And it all has to do with the languaging in these contracts, that they don't use words like "must," "shall," "will." They use words like "reasonably" and "may" and things like that.
David: Yeah.
Kate: And at one point, Lindy said, "Well, there are some positive things and some negative things about deplanement, but we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water." And I looked at her and I said, "Yeah, but what if the baby is Damien?"
David: [laughs] Yeah. Right, right.
Kate: [laughs] And you're the first to hear that, outside of that meeting.
David: [laughs] That's funny.
Kate: [laughs] She laughed, too. They all laughed, but then they got serious again, because it's a serious...
David: Right.
Kate: And again, we're in the fountain of pork. They are making so much money from someone, somewhere, that...
David: Yeah. Well, the airlines are making money. I mean, they've been profitable now the past two quarters, I believe?
Kate: Yeah. Well, they say past two quarters, but I got to believe that it's beyond that.
David: Right. Before we run out of time, I want to cover a couple of things we have to get to. Tell me about the strand-in.
Kate: OK. The strand-in, which is what I've been vociferously working on for the last week...
David: And this happened September 19th?
Kate: September 19th, we are inviting members of Congress into our mock jet, which we have affectionately labeled "Mock 1."
David: [laughs] OK.
Kate: "Flyersrights.com" will be on the side. We have purchased a 28-foot by 12-foot wide by 10-foot high tent that looks like a fuselage, that has been decorated...
David: OK.
Kate: And it's going to be hot and sticky and sweaty, and we're going to have babies crying. We're going to have all the noises that existed inside our jet at about the ninth hour. Pardon my language, but I bought some spray last night that we're going to be spraying into this that smells like a toilet.
David: Feces?
Kate: [laughs] Yeah.
David: Yeah.
Kate: [laughs] It smells like butt spray. And it's not going to be pleasant, but we're inviting members of Congress, and we're actually sending out those invitations as we speak. We have members of the Senate and Congress that have agreed to speak before the media. Peter Greenberg's going to be covering this. We have a lot of coverage. We know every major media outlet will be there. We haven't sent out our press release yet, because it's too soon.
David: And you have a map of where it's going to be on the Mall, on stranded passengers.
Kate: Yes. It's right between the Smithsonian and another museum.
David: The Museum of American History.
Kate: The Museum of American History. The Capitol is in the background. It's a beautiful spot.
David: [laughs] A beautiful spot to be stranded on a plane.
Kate: To be stranded on a plane. We have a guy coming in. We have a commercial pilot, believe it or not, for American Airlines, that's coming in to speak who is for our legislation. We have a doctor, who is a blood clot doctor, speaking. We have a GE jet engine engineer that got a blood clot on a plane who's going to be speaking.

We possibly have some stars that we're waiting to hear, right now, from agents, whether or not they will be able to be there. Angelina Jolie and David Beckham evidently have had some problems with the airlines, and so we don't know if they will be there or not, but right now, we're in the process of hoping that that happens. Possibly Dana Carvey...
David: Well, I think if you can get either one of those, you'll definitely have media attention.
Kate: Yes. Well, we already know we'll have media attention, with the senators and the congressmen that will be there.
David: Right.
Kate: And just the stranding, it's such an amazing idea, to have an opportunity for these congressmen and senators to be able to experience. And we've already had a number of them... Everyone that we've asked so far has said yes.
David: Oh, that's great.
Kate: Yes.
David: It follows the same model of representatives--this has happened in the past six months or so--who lived a month on food stamps...
Kate: [laughs]
David: So that they could actually understand what poverty is like, to understand that.
Kate: Wow. I didn't hear about that.
David: But giving them the experience, it is one thing to describe to somebody and say, "We need legislation for this." It is another thing to go, "Come and experience this for 14 hours, or a month."
Kate: Exactly.
David: Whatever it might be, the issue.
Kate: Yes.
David: So, I think it's a brilliant move on your part.
Kate: That's right. We're only asking them for one hour. And what we're saying in the invitation is, "And if you can't make it, send a staffer or send a family member." [laughs]
David: Right. "Send a family member you may not be fond of."
Kate: That's right. [laughs] We haven't exactly told them how bad it's going to be in the jet. In the invitation, it doesn't particularly explain just how rough it's going to be in there. And right in the middle of the day, too, in Washington, between 11 and 1, is the hottest time of day. That's why we picked that time.
David: Yeah. One last thing, before we wrap up. What can people do to help this cause?
Kate: Right now, to help this cause, there are two things that they can do. They need to call their congressmen and encourage them to include deplanement in this legislation.
David: OK.
Kate: The second thing is, if their congressman is on the Ways and Means Committee... My congressman, Mike Thompson, just brought up the idea of deplanement at Ways and Means this last week. Next Tuesday, they're having another Ways and Means meeting, and their intending to forward a package to Oberstar, imploring him to consider deplanement. And realizing that Ways and Means is not normally the vehicle for this, but the congressman from Atlanta and the congressman from Chicago O'Hare are for this, and they're on Ways and Means.
David: OK.
Kate: And so there's a strong conversation for this. We've sent out an email to our coalition yesterday, a bulk email notifying our coalition who the members were that were on Ways and Means. And I will post that today on our blogspot so that people can go there, to the blogspot, and see who the members are on Ways and Means...
David: OK.
Kate: And then they can contact them.
David: Excellent.
Kate: And ask for deplanement. Just say, "Please include some form of deplanement in the FAA reauthorization bill."
David: OK. So you want it in the FAA reauthorization bill. Also, this is House Resolution 1303 and Senate Resolution 678.
Kate: Well, those are the standalone bills.
David: Right.
Kate: But in the FAA reauthorization now, it's House 2881 and Senate 1300.
David: OK.
Kate: The reason we did that is because we could get language approved faster, because it's a must-pass bill.
David: OK. Yeah, exactly. As opposed to having it in a standalone piece of legislation.
Kate: And having it take five years. [laughs]
David: Yeah, exactly. Kate Hanni, I want to say thanks so much for talking at length with me today.
Kate: You got it. Thank you.
David: We'll follow through with this, too. As issues arise, don't hesitate to contact me. We'll encourage our readers and listeners to go to flyersrights.com and to strandedpassengers.blogspot.com.
Kate: Yes. Thank you. And you know what? Donations are very much appreciated: frequent flyer miles. We are flying 22 people out to Washington, all on donated miles.
David: Oh, smart. It costs to lobby, right.
Kate: It costs to lobby. [laughs] And I'm on tape now. [laughs]
David: Right. And I'm sure that airlines have paid lobbyists who are paid quite well.
Kate: They are paid quite well. That's right.
David: OK. Thanks a lot.
Kate: Thank you so much.
David: For more information on planning your trip, or to hear about the latest travel news and deals, visit us on the web at www.frommers.com. And be sure to email us at editor@frommermedia.com with any comments or suggestions. This has been a production of Wiley Publishing and may not be reused or rebroadcast without express written consent.