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Sunday Morning News
Making the Best of Air TravelAired March 11, 2001 - 8:10 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Traveling by air remains an annoyance for many people. With some insights on how to make the best of a difficult situation while traveling, we turn to travel expert Edward Hasbrouck in our Boston bureau.
Mr. Hasbrouck, thanks for being with us.
EDWARD HASBROUCK, TRAVEL EXPERT, "PRACTICAL NOMAD": My pleasure.
O'BRIEN: All right, well, what is -- what's the bottom line tip you can offer us here? It seems like the aggravation level, just when I think it can't get any worse, does get worse. Do you see any end in sight here?
HASBROUCK: The short answer is no. I don't think you see a big change. You know, there's a lot of focus on what I would call sort of quality of service complaints -- they're rude to us, we have to wait in line too long, we don't get a lot of information as to what's happening. But I don't think that should distract people from the much more fundamental consumer problems in airfares, and that's that really the airlines are above the law.
They have a federal exemption...
O'BRIEN: So to speak.
HASBROUCK: ... from state consumer protection laws. No, quite literally. They have a federal exemption from local consumer protection laws that lets them do things that most state attorneys general say would be actionable as fraud, out and out illegal if any other business did it.
O'BRIEN: All right, so...
HASBROUCK: Prices for a half round trip. You know, what is a half round trip? What is per person based on double occupancy?
HASBROUCK: You know, labeling a flight with one airline's name when it's really operated by another. I think people need to look beyond the minor annoyances to some really fundamental problems that are going to require a fundamental political solution if anything is going to happen. O'BRIEN: So what are you advocating, then? Do you think it's time that Congress gets to work at coming up with some kind of re- regulation of this industry? Is that appropriate? Or is this...
HASBROUCK: Yes. Absolutely.
O'BRIEN: Do you think so? OK, why?
HASBROUCK: Yes. Well, you know, what's happened is that deregulation has placed air travel on a supposed competitive basis. You know, people don't complain if you go to a restaurant and you get bad service, you just don't go back. But people don't yet have real choice in most airline markets. But the regulatory scheme is based on the idea that well, they'll just go to another airline.
But, in fact, the airlines have us over a barrel and people know it and that's why they object to the present situation and why there is, I think, increasing consumer call for at least some level of re- regulation in uncompetitive airline markets.
O'BRIEN: All right, so what do we do? We're faced with an airline cartel here, if you will, to use a -- well, I guess a turn of a phrase. It probably isn't technically a cartel. I don't want to accuse them of that. What can we do when we're trying to plan our trip here? It's, we've got not only this confusion, the utter confusion there is over fares and schedules and so forth, but you have to throw in the labor dispute issues in all of this. What can you do?
HASBROUCK: Well, I think the most basic thing, especially for people now facing the possibility of labor disruptions or, as we had here in Boston this week with a major blizzard, flight cancellations, the simplest, most basic thing is to have a paper ticket, not an electronic ticket. If you're already holding an electronic ticket, especially one on any of these airlines that is facing the possibility of labor action and service disruptions, go to your travel agent or go back to the airline and get it printed out as a physical ticket because in most cases where there are problems, what you want to do is to be able to have that ticket honored by some other airline. But another airline can't honor an electronic ticket and if the airline is shut down by a strike, they won't even be there to print out the electronic for you to take to another airline.
O'BRIEN: It seems to me...
HASBROUCK: That's a...
O'BRIEN: Go ahead. That's good advice. I mean do you...
HASBROUCK: Well, that's a starting point as the most basic thing. I think the other thing in case of problems is to understand your rights and what your rights aren't so that you know whether you can really stand on your rights or whether you're asking for a favor.
There's a big difference if flights are canceled because of mechanical problems or the airline is simply late for reasons of its own. Then, in most cases, they or -- you can expect them and you can insist that they pay the costs of a hotel or other incidental expenses that are the result of that action.
But if a flight is canceled because of weather or air traffic control or other things beyond the control of the airline, then while most people might expect the airline to take care of you, in reality they don't have any obligation and whatever you're asking for, you're just asking for a favor.
O'BRIEN: All right, Edward Hasbrouck, we failed to mention the title of your book. It is "The Practical Nomad: How To Travel All Around the World." We appreciate your insights and we wish you well and happy traveling through all of this.
HASBROUCK: Thank you and good luck to all of you travelers.
O'BRIEN: All right, fair enough.
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