Travel Weekly has published a pretty damning hit piece on Kate Hanni, the airline passenger ‘consumer advocate’ of Flyers Rights with hair-brained schemes that seem to make passengers worse off and who seems as inclined towards publicity for its own sake as, say, Chuck Schumer.
It’s a rambling piece with a whole lot of irrelevant detail and meaningless facts dropped as innuendo. Still, there’s a good bit in there that helps paint a picture of FlyersRights.org as a confused shop and Kate Hanni in particular as erratic and untrustworthy.
There are allegations that she’s misled Congress, especially about the size of her ‘membership’ which appears to be anyone who signed an online petition, and the number of calls her organization receives. Her group hasn’t ever filed a tax return, and seems very lackadaisical in handling of money.
She’s alleged to have manipulated the data in her airline report card to get the results she wanted (she hates Delta) — describing her group’s use of unsubstantiated data as what makes it ‘distinct.’
Last March, for example, FlyersRights’ report card identified Delta as the worst violator of passenger rights. It was not the first time Hanni had singled out Delta in this way. The airline was named worst in 2009, too.
But draft copies of the report made available to Travel Weekly indicate that Delta scored at the bottom in 2008 only after Hanni adjusted the scoring metrics she had used in earlier reports…
Mogel pointed out that change in methodology included unreported tarmac delays compiled from unsubstantiated media reports, hotline calls and email. “I used to debate with her constantly about those numbers,” he said.
Hanni says such unofficial sources are what makes the organization’s report cards “distinct,” adding, “We have a hotline and we should use information we get from it.”
…In effect, Foreman switched the grading system from a purely objective ranking by number of incidents to a subjective interpretation based on a given incident’s perceived severity. Foreman defended that change, arguing, “Sometimes, a grading system can be subjective because that’s what it is.”
Whatever the new methodology, the numbers do not appear to stand up to scrutiny. A Travel Weekly review of flights cited by Hanni in this year’s report card as “unreported” by the airlines revealed that many of those flights had, in fact, been reported. In other cases, DOT data revealed that no delays had occurred in the first place or that the delay had been minor.
The article also claims Hanni has used her organization to agitate for a contributor to obtain federal contracts.
Oh, and there’s even a sex tape.
Most of this is entirely beside the point, which really is that her group delves into issues that she’s acknowledged she has had little expertise in, and even her core claims about tarmac delays and the need for the recently-enacted “three-hour rule” for domestic flights have been ill-conceived.
The Kate Hanni Flyers Rights organization does seem to use questionable data to support their questionable positions.