Air travelers air complaints in Chicago

June 25, 2008 at 1:40 PM
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CHICAGO, June 25 (UPI) -- Rising fares and added fees have not put a stop to routine operational problems at U.S. airlines, passengers said.

Missing bags on top of $15 fees to check them was one of the frustrations aired by passengers at a Department of Transportation forum held in Chicago Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Passengers, lobbying for an airline passengers' bill rights, said they were tired of airlines blaming all their problems on rising fuel costs. They also complained of being bumped from overbooked flights, a problem unlikely to disappear in an era of reduced fight schedules.

Catharine Gantt of Southwest Airlines defended overselling flights, saying an empty seat on a plane was comparable to "a grocery store with spoiled food," while a United Airlines spokeswoman defended the airlines' baggage handling, reminding the audience O'Hare International Airport has 8 miles of conveyor belts and processes 1,700 pieces of luggage an hour.

But, air travel is not what it used to be, many passengers said.

"Air travel at times can resemble theater of cruelty," said Michael Lyons, vice president of the National Business Travel Association.

"Flight and seat options are going away. What last year was a $250 ticket is now $450 or $500. That's rough," Lyons said.

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