Bad Advice from a ‘Passenger Rights Group’ that Seems to Know Little About Air Travel

Wandering Aramean asks, “What to do when the industry’s largest consumer advocate is so wrong?”

He explains, “For better or for worse the largest airline passenger customer advocacy group in the United States is”

And then shares this gem of advice from the group on how to deal with the current pilot sickout and work slowdown at American Airlines:

[I]f you have stacked up the frequent flyer miles we recommend you immediately book your trip on AA or a code-share partner just to avoid the risk of losing those miles in the event AA shuts their doors.

Wandering Aramean points out that this hysterical advice is being given in the organization’s fundraising, and that the advice is silly because American Airlines isn’t going out of business and their frequent flyer program isn’t ending.

In fact the airline has plenty of cash and the frequent flyer program itself is profitable.

Moreover, it seems strange to suggest that one book tickets to fly American in the future if you think that American is going to shut down.

And it’s also strange to suggest that booking tickets on an airline partner is a sure-fire way to make sure you get to travel in the event the airline were to shut down. While governed by local laws based on where you’re flying from and the partner you’re on, it’s not at all obvious that if you book a ticket through an airline that’s out of business that the airline you’re supposed to be flying will honor that ticket. Again, there’s lots of factors that this will depend on.

But I have to take issue with the characterization of as “the industry’s largest consumer advocate.”

As I noted two years ago, the organization’s ‘membership’ numbers have been inflated by simply totaling up the number of people who signed an online petition plus estimating the number of calls the organization has received. And for good measure, the organization seems to massage the data in their reports to get the outcomes they want. And there’s a sex tape, too…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s easy to criticise and do nothing; time to walk the talk and for you to start a better organization.

    It’s not like that passenger rights are underrepresented.

  2. Yes they reacted incorrectly on this matter and it’s unlikely AA miles are going to disappear any time soon, but I would hope such knowledgeable and highly visible travel expert persons as Gary and Wandering Aramean would try and reach out to the organization and help educate them on these things above anything else–to help steer them in the most well-intended direction when it comes to matters that they may know little about but that could impact travel.

    The need for extensive passenger rights is HUGE and many travelers will agree that things are pretty bad out there in this area–unless of course you are one of those lucky persons to whom nothing bad/inconvenient/obtuse has EVER happened.

    So while the organization’s platform does not give it nor any organization the right to make serious blunders (or pad its member numbers etc), I for one should hope that we all do anything we can to boost them and help them get it right instead of looking for ways to publicly shoot them down.

    That said, what ever happened with Ansett Australia?

  3. Do you think they really are a large organization? Your own investigations seem to indicate numbers are inflated, and publicity is directed toward fundraising more than anything else. Maybe it’s a shell that churns money on behalf of officers, taking advantage of a desire to “do something” about passenger rights to capture donations and attention. I know nothing about it, but if this is the quality of stuff they put out, I don’t see where they have any credibility.

  4. Wow bloggers getting paid to push products, consumer advocates with their own hidden agendas, and now a sex tape….you got to love this industry.

  5. Maybe you can tell us, which organization is the largest consumer advocate. For consumers it is tough to know who can help.
    I only know of Kate Hanni and Chris Elliott, but if you think Kate is shady, Chris pretending to be “Mr Ethical” is as rotten as it comes.

  6. Consumer Federation of America, the not-for-profit publishers of Consumer Reports, actually does a lot for flyer rights…and they are actually honest adults, too.

  7. Why on earth would anyone think we are dishonest? What about our offering a toll free, totally free hotline is dishonest? What about my family putting 54k into the group to keep it alive is dishonest?

    Just because you don’t like my or the groups point of view does NOT make us dishonest. We are the antithesis of dishonest and we are here even for you the naysayers.

    Consumer Federation of America has supported, in writing every one of our thrusts before Congress and the DOT. They have gone on the record and signed letters supporting us as have all of the other major national consumer groups. Frankly was and is the only authentic game in town.

    We NEVER padded our numbers. In fact Ralph Nader gave us 70k in members that we never claimed publicly. He helped us get our C-3 status and he and I worked together on a series of issues related to the body scanners. So please, before you accuse us of lying or manipulating, consider the source of your information and at least give us/me an opportunity to show you the truth.

  8. @Kate Hanni – curious what brought you to this 9 month old post, but if you click on the link in the post to past discussion of the organization, you conceded in the comments in July 2010 that you introduce your own subjective data into your scoring process.

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