Friday, March 2, 2012

Welcome to the blog for my book, Diverted: High Flyers and Frequent Liars.

In three short years, a small grassroots organization persuaded the federal government to enact laws and regulations to protect airline passengers from lengthy tarmac delays, hidden fees and other unfair or deceptive practices.

Engaging in their own deceptions, two paper tigers manipulated the government, the media, the American public and their own families in pursuit of lifelong personal dreams; participation in government affairs for one - fame for the other. One would achieve both, the other would lose everything.

CONTENTS

Prologue
Let’s do this
Hi, this is Kate Hanni
The Holy Grail
A dream come true
Damien
Happy Birthday
Saving money
Wiggle words
On a roll
The Ralph Nader of the Skies
Hanni, Branson and Gore
Secret agents
Hanoi Kate
State laws and bubble baths
Hillary Clinton weighs in
Seventy calls per day
No good choices
Rape kits and restraining orders
The hits keep on coming
Peace
Pin-ups
Media heals all wounds
All about appearances
Tattoos
Out of control
The mantra
Prostitutes and Pitot tubes
We won
End of the story
Traitors
The Delta lawsuit
Data
Airline passengers have rights
The F-B-I
Airline safety and security
Mission accomplished
Epilogue
Afterword

Prologue

THE HEADLINE IN the Napa Valley Register read, “Real estate agent as­saulted in vacant home.” The article described an incident that was reported on the afternoon of June 21, 2006:
Kate Hanni said she received a call on her cell phone from a man saying he was interested in looking at property she had listed in the 100 block of Berna Avenue in Napa. … Hanni was alone in the house turning on the lights when a man wearing a ski mask entered the home, according to Napa police.[1]

According to the article, police said that Hanni escaped by biting the as­sailant on his hand, and that she was taken to a local hospital where she was treated and released.
Six months later, on December 29, 2006, Hanni boarded American Air­lines Flight 1348 in San Francisco with her husband and two sons. The family was headed to a vacation resort in Alabama with a stopover at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  

As Flight 1348 approached Dallas at around noon, a broad line of severe thunderstorms was passing through central Texas. Tornado warnings were issued. Air traffic controllers closed the Dallas airport.

Unable to land in Dallas, the flight landed at Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas.

Due to the severe weather, which continued throughout the afternoon, over 120 other flights that had been bound for Dallas were also forced to land at Austin and other airports in the southwest region. It was the largest dis­ruption in air service since 9/11. Both American Airlines and the regional airports where the flights landed were unprepared to deal with the crisis. Many of the smaller regional airports were running scheduled incoming and outgoing flight operations, and there weren’t enough gates available to ac­commodate all of the unexpected jets.

Throughout the afternoon, the weather in Dallas alternately cleared and worsened. During the clear periods, some flights were able to resume their trips to Dallas. That led other flight crews to believe that they too would get clearance to complete their trips. For many of them, and thousands of passen­gers who sat on those airplanes, it was a clearance they would never receive.

The severe weather eventually reached Austin. Lightning pounded the airport – preventing airplanes from taking off and ground personnel from moving about safely. As more hours passed, snacks and water became scarce. Lavatory toilets were filled to the rims – the stench of human waste flowed throughout airplane cabins. Parents ran out of formula and diapers for their babies. Police were called to break up a fight on one of the jets. An ambulance was called to another to assist a diabetic with a colostomy bag. A small dog defecated in the cabin of yet another, which led to a cascade of vomiting passen­gers. It was a nightmare.

Nine hours and sixteen minutes after American Airlines Flight 1348 landed in Austin, its captain, without permission, maneuvered his airplane to a gate and let the passengers deplane. Kate Hanni, the real estate agent from Napa, stepped off of that airplane and into commercial aviation history.

Within three years, Hanni will have successfully lobbied the federal government to issue regulations that would threaten airlines with a fine of up to $27,500 per passenger for tarmac delays of over three hours. Airlines would be required to change how they reported tarmac delay statis­tics. Bump­ing compensation would be increased, and airlines would be required to pro­vide full and accurate ticket pricing on their websites.

High-level government officials would meet with Hanni to discuss aviation-related subjects ranging from baggage fees to pilot fatigue. She would become a popular media commentator on airline safety, security and consumer issues.

Within a six-month period in 2006, she had survived a terrifying assault and had endured a nine-hour and
sixteen minute tarmac stranding. Three years later, she had done what no one else could or would do, what many would say was impossible. She had turned her anguish and anger into advo­cacy. She had taken on the commercial airlines and their powerful Wash­ington lobbyists and had beaten them. News reports would herald Hanni as the woman who forever changed the way that airlines treated their customers – a determined woman who led a national coalition of grassroots activists to fight for and attain basic human rights for airline passengers.

Four years after Hanni’s tarmac stranding, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer would wrap a lengthy tribute to Kate Hanni’s extraordinary accom­plishments asking, “Who says one person can’t change a lot in this country?”[2]


April 2010

Let’s do this

THREE YEARS AND four months after Kate Hanni walked off of the air­plane in Austin, Texas, I was sitting at my dining room table with a reporter for a travel industry publication.

“Are you okay?” the reporter asked. “You don’t look good.”

Mike Fabey had driven from Virginia to my home in Collegeville, Penn­sylvania to interview me for an article he was writing about Hanni. I wasn’t okay. My head felt like it was going to explode or implode, I couldn’t tell which. I was dizzy, short of breath, sweating – thought I might be having a heart attack.

“You might have to take me to a hospital, Mike,” I said.
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Read more in my sensational book; Diverted: High Flyers and Frequent Liars available now here:



Or search for it by author name or title on Amazon.com. Available now in Kindle format.

[1] Dorgan, Marsha. Real estate agent assaulted in vacant home.” Napa Valley Register, June 23, 2006. http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/article_3192e8d2-768b-5991-ae95-6c564be88193.html
[2] Sciutto, Jim. Mom Crusades for Airline Passengers' Rights.ABC News with Diane Sawyer, 04/20/2011. http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/mom-crusades-airline-passengers-rights-kate-hanni-airport-refunds-13422563

Postscript

On May 24, 2012, just three months after "Diverted" was published and having subsequently been read by Department of Transportation officials, Secretary Ray LaHood announced the members of a congressionally mandated aviation advisory panel -- the advisory panel mentioned in the last paragraph (and elsewhere) of "Diverted." Despite having endorsements from several national consumer groups, Hanni was passed over to represent consumers on that panel. Instead, a far lesser-known consumer advocate was selected; Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA). I wish him well.