Archive Monthly Archives: April 2017

Why blogging is important – Cambridge Network

Cambridge Network

Why blogging is important
Cambridge Network
Blogging is something many companies omit nowadays or as I am often told “we will engage with that at a later stage”. In today's content-driven world, where audiences spend over ten hours a day consuming digital media, you need to provide relevant …

Continue reading

Oscar Pistorius: case that obsessed a nation and captured its reflection

Former South African athlete to find out this week how long he is to spend in prison for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius is to learn this week how long he will spend in prison for the crime of murdering his girlfriend with four bullets fired through a closed toilet door.

A sentencing hearing at the high court in Pretoria in South Africa starts on Monday and is expected to be be the final chapter in an extraordinary story that attracted intense worldwide attention.

The 29-year-old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, who has spent recent months under house arrest at his uncles luxurious home in the city, is almost certain to be in jail by the end of the week, with the prospect of about 15 years or possibly more behind bars.

Pistorius won global fame and fortune when he reached the semi-finals of the 400m at the 2012 Olympics. A double amputee below the knee from 11 months old, Pistorius inspired millions around the world with his determination to reach the highest levels of sport. His success attracted lucrative endorsement contracts and sponsorship deals from major brands.

But in February 2013 Pistorius fell spectacularly from grace when he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate.

Reeva Steenkamp was killed when Oscar Pistorius fired four bullets through a closed toilet door. Photograph: Gallo Images/Rex Shutterstock

Initially found guilty only of culpable homicide, or manslaughter in British law, and sentenced to five years in prison, he was convicted of murder after an appeal by state prosecutors last year. The former athlete has exhausted almost every legal option available to him.

There is the theoretical possibility that he could appeal a sentence but an appeal would not generally be admitted unless [the sentence] is shockingly inappropriate, said David Unterhalter, a professor of law at the University of Cape Town and a leading advocate.

Tens of millions around the world followed the 2014 trial of Pistorius. Almost every minute of more than 40 days of psychological drama, intense emotion, police procedural and legal argument was broadcast live on South African television, and massively amplified by social media.

In South Africa the interest in the killing and its aftermath bordered on the obsessive. People took time off work and watched the action. Workplaces came to a standstill. There were dedicated TV channels and ratings for anything else plummeted. Day after day, week after week, it was on the front pages. The story was just so compelling. The guy was a national hero and worshipped, and he became a national villain, said Mondli Makhanya, a prominent South African journalist.

Oscar Pistorius, centre, arrives outside the court in Pretoria, South Africa, before sentencing in his trial. Photograph: Antoine de Ras/AP

The killing and the trial also held a mirror to South Africa more than 20 years after the end of apartheid and the coming of democracy at a time of widespread disillusionment at a perceived failure to achieve the lofty goals of that time have not been achieved.

In the same way that [Nelson] Mandela was the symbol of the country in the glorious years of generosity and pragmatism and all those good things, Pistorius was a national icon of whom everyone was proud. His cataclysmic fall was a metaphor for broader disappointed dreams, said John Carlin, who attended the trial and is the author of a book on the former athlete.

Though one South African commentator described the country as heartily sick of the case, every twist and turn is still being picked over. Pistoriuss family has responded angrily to a new book, published in April, claiming forensic evidence from the trial showed the athlete had attacked Steenkamp shortly before shooting her dead. The family dismissed the book as the work of amateur forensic hobbyists.

Days later came the news that ITV, the British network, would broadcast an interview with Pistorius, his first since the murder, in which he would speak about the night he murdered his girlfriend and be questioned about the case. It will be screened later this month. A feature-length film is also planned, as well as a three-part South African TV documentary based on a bestselling book about the murder.

Initially the prosecution had argued that Pistorius had deliberately killed his girlfriend out of jealousy and anger. Pistorius, who frequently broke down in court, denied the accusation , saying he was deeply in love with her and believed he was protecting her when he shot through the toilet door because he thought an intruder was hiding there.

As the sentencing hearing is effectively a continuation of the original trial, the same judge, Thokozile Masipa, will preside. Photograph: Rex

The trial judge found there was no evidence that Pistorius had wanted to kill Steenkamp but found him guilty of the lesser crime of culpable homicide, as he had acted too hastily and used excessive force.

The verdict and sentence five years in jail, of which only one would be served before the athlete was bailed prompted outrage among campaigners against rape and domestic violence in South Africa and surprise among many legal experts.

The trial judge was criticised for failing to answer the key legal question of whether any reasonable person should have foreseen that firing so many bullets through a door was likely to cause death, whoever was thought to be on the other side.

The appeal court felt Pistorius must have known that he was likely to kill someone and overturned the manslaughter verdict. Describing Steenkamps death as a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, the appeal judges said the accused ought to have been found guilty of murder.

As Pistorius had already been released under house arrest at his uncles residence in October 2015, before the states successful appeal, he did not return to prison.

A subsequent attempt by Pistoriuss legal team to appeal against the murder conviction was blocked in March by the constitutional court, South Africas highest judicial authority.

In the hearings this week the former athletes lawyers are likely to argue that his double amputation has made him psychological fragile, inducing a deep anxiety and a tendency to overreaction. They are likely too to emphasise his work with charity in an effort to reduce the sentence.

The first trial revealed Pistoriuss taste for guns and fast cars as well as his short temper. For the prurient there will be a privileged view in his psychological makeup. The defence will be looking to show that he is a paranoid personality prone to this kind of behaviour. Now the issue is not whether is he guilty of murder the perspective is slightly different, said Unterhalter.

Reeva Steenkamps parents, Barry and June, during Oscar Pistoriuss murder trial in September 2014. Photograph: Rex

Prosecutors may call their own witnesses. Steenkamps father, Barry, could give evidence for the first time.

One further twist is that as the hearing this week is effectively a continuation of the original trial, the same judge will preside. Thokozile Masipa, a 68-year-old former journalist who was only the second black woman to be appointed to the high court, was praised for her calm authority despite her controversial original verdict.

Observers say that, amid all the negative reflections on South Africa prompted by the Pistorius saga, one positive element has been the apparent strength of the countrys justice system. The South African justice system has come out of this very well. The trial was conducted in an intelligent and mature way that was impressive by any world standards, said Carlin.

Makhanya said it was unlikely that Pistorius would be forgotten, even if jailed. The Steenkamp family has made efforts to keep the public focused on the killing, as have campaigners against domestic violence and abuse. It will be with us for a long time to come, Makhanya said.

Oscar Pistoriuss shadow is cast on a track during training for an international EAA athletics meeting in Lucerne. Photograph: Michael Buholzer/Reuters

History of a champion athlete turned murderer

1986 Oscar Pistorius is born in Sandton, South Africa, with no fibulas. His lower legs are amputated when he is 11 months old

2004 The novice athlete smashes the 200m world record at the Athens Paralympics

2007 Pistorius wins an award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year

2008 At the Beijing Paralympic Games Pistorius wins the 100m, 200m and 400m titles. Launches campaign to participate in the Olympics

2012 The athlete reaches the 400m semi-finals at the London Olympics

February 2013 Pistorius shoots Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend, dead at their home in Pretoria

August 2013 He is charged with premeditated murder and possession of unlicensed ammunition

September 2014 Pistorius found not guilty of murder but guilty of culpable homicide, or manslaughter

October 2014 Sentenced to five years imprisonment, of which one will be served in jail before he is eligible for parole. He gets a three-year suspended sentence on the charge. Pistorius begins sentence

October 2015 Released on parole from Kgosi Mampuru prison to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle Arnolds home in a wealthy suburb of Pretoria

December 2015 Manslaughter conviction upgraded to murder by supreme court of appeal

March 2016 Pistorius denied permission to appeal to constitutional court

June 2016 Sentencing hearing for murder

Continue reading

Consumer Watch: Making money off of hobbies – KOKH FOX25

Consumer Watch: Making money off of hobbies
It is true that real people can make money through blogging, crafts, or even by playing video games. From a livable income to a fortune, the money making potential is there, but what it takes to make a hobby or passion into a business may not be for

Continue reading

Live Blogging: Dodgers Face Los Gigantes at AT&T Park – Pasadena Now

Pasadena Now

Live Blogging: Dodgers Face Los Gigantes at AT&T Park
Pasadena Now
AT&T PARK, SAN FRANCISCO—In the third game of a four-game series, the Doyers will send Alex Woods to the mound this evening against Los Gigantes. Johnny Cueto will be throwing for San Francisco. The two teams are muddled up in the middle of the …

Continue reading

From Homeless to CEOThis Mans Business is Open on Thanksgiving, But Not to Make Money

“Maybe I don’t make any money that day, but I feel happy to do that. I do this every year, and I will keep doing this as long as I live.”

For the last decade, George Dimopoulos has been doing something spectacular on Thanksgiving.

Instead of shutting down his restaurant, he opens the doors of George’s Senate Coney Island all day for anyone who may be alone on Thanksgiving Day.

Though he’s been doing this the past 10 years, his Turkey Day tradition just went viral after somebody posted the following picture of this note to the web:

The handwritten noteposted on his storefront window is an open invitation for the homeless or anyone who’s just plain ‘alone’ to get a hearty meal on Thanksgiving/

He serves free breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 6:30am-9pm for anyone who walks through his doors, and he even has some people come back for multiple meals.

“I’m a very good cook,” he told “I cook a lot of good food, and I give a lot of food to people. I don’t tell people that I do this; I do this because I believe in God and believe that there are people who need a little help.”

“They need a little attention and help. That’s what I believe. I don’t care how much it costs. I make good money, so I can help those people,” he added.

The restaurant owner does the same thing for Easter too. It is a tradition that is close to his heart.

The Greek Michigan immigrant came to the United Stateswhen he was 23, and he’ll never forget how it felt to be homeless in Athens as a child, relying on strangers for food.

He serves about 100 people every holiday, and he donates food on top on that as well. There will never be a hungry belly as long as George is around.

“Maybe I don’t make any money that day, but I feel happy to do that. I do this every year, and I will keep doing this as long as I live,” says George.

Continue reading

Why Trump’s Contempt For The Emoluments Clause Matters

As many people have pointed out, President-elect Donald Trump has a problem: Its called Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, better known as the Emoluments Clause. It says this:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

The idea behind the clause is pretty intuitive, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman notes at Bloomberg View. If federal officials can be compensated by foreign governments, they can be bought. He adds: Its pretty clear that the clause was intended to stop foreign governments from currying favor with federal officials through gifts.

But Trumps massive business holdings more than 500 different corporate entities around the world and his refusal to sell them before he takes office places him on a collision course with the Constitution.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington is one of the more talked-about entities in which the incoming president will run afoul of this constitutional stipulation. The $800-a-night showpiece was already a source of ethical woes for Trump, owing to the fact that the building is leased from the government, which by law is prohibited from renting property to officials in said government. This means that as soon as Trump is sworn into office, he will technically be on both sides of the lease, as both tenant and landlord. But we digress.

The more serious issue with the new hotel is that representatives of foreign governments could decide to book rooms as a way of currying favor with the Trump administration, whichis already happening. And despite the efforts of Trumps tax attorney, Sheri Dillon who this week said that Trump would give away the profits (after expenses) his hotels made from foreign governments big concerns remain about foreign money flowing through Trumps resorts.

All the attention this week to Trumps plan for avoiding profiting from foreign delegations at his hotels only served to distract from the real news that came out of his press conference on Wednesday: Trump is not planning to do anything to keep foreign influence from flowing into the other 500-plus companies he owns.

Heres the thing: The Trump Organization is not one, single corporate entity that can be said to be Trump Inc. Instead, the president-elects business empire is made up of hundreds of individual LLCs, each housing assets that range from a high-rise in Uruguay to a helicopter in Manhattan.

Judging from Trumps financial disclosure forms, scoresof these companies are basically dormant little more than a name on a piece of paper and a license to sell stuff. This is fairly common in commercial real estate, where deals can take decades to finalize, and where partnerships can run into trouble during periods of recession and spring back to life when times are good.

Trumps own development of Manhattans West Side Yards which Trump has said was the best deal he ever made took years to develop, and was dormant for several years after Trump and then-Mayor Ed Koch got into a scrap in the late 1980s over tax abatements, which Koch ultimately refused to provide.

While the development was on hold, Trump received an offer from fellow developer William Zeckendorf Jr. in 1989 to buy the property, but Trump wouldnt sell, even though Zeckendorf offered nearly four times what Trump paid to acquire it. It wasnt until 1994 that Trumps creditors forced him to sell. (The property ended up in the hands of Hong Kong developers, who used Trumps name on some of the buildings; he eventually walked away with minority stakes in a pair of office buildings now worth $640 million.)

Now that we know Trump has hundreds of paper companies in dozens of countries, its time to revisit the Emoluments Clause from a new angle.

DOMINICK REUTER via Getty Images
Donald Trump listens as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi speaks during a meeting at the Plaza Hotel on Sept. 19, 2016, in New York.

Take, for example, Trumps two inactive companies in Egypt Trump Marks Egypt Corp. and Trump Marks Egypt LLC. Both were incorporated in 2007, but currently exist in a form of suspended animation. Egypt, like many developing countries, has high levels of public corruption, and low rates of prosecution for high-ranking officials accused of misusing government funds.

In this environment, its not a stretch to see how it might be in the interest of the Egyptian state to revive Trump Marks Egypt Corp., in the hopes that doing business with Trumps sons in Egypt could help strengthen the fragile governments relationship with an American administration that currently provides Egypt with $1.46 billion a year in foreign aid. I mean, its hard to make the argument, if youre Egypt, that you should do anything but revive the deal you struck years ago to do who-knows-what with Donald Trump.

In order to shield the fact that such a deal was being financed with government funds, in many parts of the world it would be relatively easy to pass the money through a corporate entity run by an ally of the current leadership. Heck, that kind of stuff already happens all the time!

As it happens, Trumps lawyers only assurance in this regard was that hiscompany would make no new foreign deals, which leaves the door open for Trump to reap riches off any foreign deals set up in the past. Whether theyre lying dormant, were put on hold for a minute, or are furiously being negotiated in the eight weeks between Trumps election and his inauguration, these projects all share one thing in common: They could technically be considered ongoing business matters that existed prior to Trump taking the oath of office.

If any of these foreign deals suddenly come back to life during Trumps presidency, its safe to assume Trumps attorneys would argue that they were pre-existing business affairs, like his D.C. hotel and his Manhattan skyscrapers not new deals struck between Trumps family members (who want to make money), and state actors (who want a business partner in the Oval Office).

The notion that there wont be new deals doesnt solve the problem of all the existing businesses, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics (whom congressional Republicans are now threatening to subpoena), noted this week.

Jim Young / Reuters
Trump said he put his sons,Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in charge of his business empire, and said he won’t discuss its operation with them. There’s no way to police the promise.

Although Trump has announced that he will be handing off these affairs to his two eldest sons, the president-elect cannot unknow the existence of his hundreds of shell companies or his stalled overseas deals, any more than he can forget that he has two grown sons. While Trump insists he will not discuss these matters with his adult children, theres no way to either police or enforce this promise.

In case you werent already freaking out, consider this. Just as foreign favor-seekers can look for ways to enlarge Trumps empire, they can also threaten to shrink it as well. As The New York Times reported in November:

And in Turkey, officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, demanded that Mr. Trumps name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. More recently, after Mr. Trump came to the defense of Mr. Erdogan suggesting that he had the right to crack down harshly on dissidents after a failed coup the calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped, fueling worries that Mr. Trumps policies toward Turkey might be shaped by his commercial interests.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged a conflict of interest in Turkey. I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul, he said during a radio interview last year with Stephen K. Bannon, the Breitbart News executive who has since been designated his chief White House strategist. Its a tremendously successful job. Its called Trump Towers two towers, instead of one. Not the usual one. Its two.

And even here, weve only begun to scratch the surface of the constitutional conflicts. In addition to the aforementioned entanglements, Norm Eisen (who served as a presidential ethics adviser in the Obama administration), Richard Painter (who served in the same capacity for President George W. Bush), and Laurence Tribe (constitutional law professor at Harvard University) outline several more in a paper published by the Brookings Institution in December, titled, The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump.

According to Eisen, et al., areas of concern include:

The authors overall assessment is very straightforward:

Wholly apart from any quid pro quo arrangements of demonstrable bribes or payoffs, the Emoluments Clause will be violated whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trumps businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign-owned entity.

Despite what youve just read, all is not lost. There is one more avenue of influence that could be exerted over the incoming president and his future foreign business partners: Public pressure from public exposure. Thats right, folks, the crooked media with its fake news and its rude questions might just be our last, best hope to stop the president from becoming the worlds most popular business partner.

Indeed, two such projects have already fallen victim to the hot glare of investigative reporting: The first was a Trump-branded resort on the Black Sea in Batumi, Georgia. The second was a Trump-branded office tower in Buenos Aires. Both of these developments were briefly revived in the weeks after the election but have since been canceled.

In all likelihood, the media attention on strained U.S. relations with the countries where these deals were situated likely played a role in killing them..

But if reporters are the last, best hope, weve got to do a much better job than weve been doing these past few weeks. Case in point: Given the opportunity to probe the president-elect and his attorney on foreign business dealings at this weeks press conference, only one reporter opted to do so, weakly inquiring, What is your response to your critics who say not only you, but also your Cabinet is filled with conflicts of interest?

If thats the best the media can do, then Trump and his family are poised to make billions of dollars by running roughshod over the Constitution.

The Huffington Post


Christina Wilkie is a White House reporter for the Huffington Post, where she covers the incoming Trump administration. Jason Linkins edits Eat The Press for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast So, That Happened. Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Continue reading

It’s Really Hard to Make Money as an Olympian

The Olympics drive athletes to get ever faster, higher, and stronger, to quote itsLatin motto: “Citius, altius, fortius.” But while the Games showathletes atthe peak of human potential, it rarely does much for their earning potential.

Every Olympiad, it seems, sees a new crop of athletes become celebrities, their names and faces recognized by millions. Reaching that point requires staggering amounts of time, focus, and discipline with money. “You have to throw everything into it, and it becomes a kind of obsession,” says Craig Leon ofthe Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. Yet it brings little wealth. “For a lot of Olympic athletes, there isnt a lot of money to be made,” hesays. In fact, the Olympics can hurtan athlete’s earning power.

The biggest impact is lost earning potential. Training for gold leaves little time to train for a career. “When Olympic athletes decide theyre done, and theyre in their late 20s or early 30s, theyre ready to hop into the working world. But their work experience is often little to none,” says Leon, a marathoner who once made it to the Olympic trials.

Olympians can earn a living on prize money, sponsorships, and speaking engagements, but not everyone gets that chance. And US athletes don’t receive the government support paid to their competitors abroad. They rely upon stipends—sometimes as little as $400 monthly—from the governing board of their particular sport. Medal winners receive a bonus of as much as $25,000 from the US Olympic Committee, but beyond that, there isn’t much. Olympic sportsrarely provides a decent income to anyone but the biggest stars. “It’s such a crapshoot,” Leon says.

Of course, few athletes do it for money. Still, they need ungodly amounts of it to succeed, and lotsof times,it never returns. Here’s a look at the economics of some of the biggest sports of the Summer Games.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images


Expenses: $100,000 per year
Training: 8 to 12 years
Famous Olympians worth: $55 million (Michael Phelps)

The equipment can cost hundreds of dollars a year, and that’s just a start.Michael Phelps trains at the BaltimoreAquatic Club, where annual membership feesrun$1,500 to$3,000 a year. Swim meets can incur $5,000 in expenses, and competitors attend around four annually.

USA Swimming, which earns $100 million in registration fees from its 300,000 members, is among the most generous governing boards. Swimmers ranked 16th or higher receive a monthly stipend of$3000, and the organization givescollegiate swimmersabout $1,750. Gold medal winners earn a bonus of $75,000.

Swimming is among the most high-profile sports of the Games, with star swimmers often earning big endorsement deals. If you’re (very) lucky, you might even become the next Michael Phelps. Today, he’sworth $55 million.

Track and Field

Expenses: $20,000 per year
Training needed: About 4 years
Famous Olympians worth: $60 million (Usain Bolt)

Track athletes can burn throughat least six pairs of shoes a year. Equipment costs add up quickly, as do medical expenses and the cost of training and competing. Like many athletes, those who compete in track and field must work part-time while chasing gold. Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen worked 65 hours a week asaccountant at Ernst and Young, eventually shifting her time to spend more of it ontrainingthan working. Now she’s a favorite to win the gold medal.

Track and field isn’t especially lucrative. According to the USA Track and Field Foundation, only half of track and field athletes ranked in the top 10 of their sport earnmore than $15,000 a year from competing. Injuries can put endorsement deals at risk. And while it’s possible for top competitors to earn more than $1 million annually,its rare.


Expenses: $18,000 per year
Training needed: 10 to 12 years
Famous Olympians worth: $3 million (Gabby Douglas)

Gymnastics is remarkably glamorous, and frightfully expensive. Top competitors start training as young children, and training can cost more than $12,000 a year for a dozen years or more. “Gymnastics is an expensive sport,” Natalie Hawkinssaid when she filed for bankruptcyjust months before her daughterGabby Douglaswon two medals during the 2012 Summer Games in London. According to one training centermanager, gym timealone can cost about $600 a month, and competition outfits can cost$300 to $500 apiece.

USA Gymnastics helps cover costs for gymnasts who make the national team, and theUSOC alsohands over more money to higher-profilesportslike gymnasticswhich tend to win the country more medals. In 2012, the last Summer Olympics, USA Gymnastics said it gave out more than $4.2 million in direct payments to its athletes.

Sponsorships help top gymnasts, but the competitive cycle can be brutal.For many, the goal is to peak as an Olympic event gets underway, at around 16 to 18 years old.


Expenses: $150,000 to $500,000 per year
Training needed: 4 to 8 years
Famous Olympians worth: $150 million (Serena Williams)

The besttennis players start early—Serena Williams was playing atthree—and competitive players can spend $50,000 to $150,000 a year on travel expenses alone,according to one pro tennis coach. Training and gear add many thousands more. Grants and stipendsfrom the United States Tennis Association, meanwhile, can be comparatively minimal, ranging from around $2000 to $4000.

Still,the payout can be great. Williams—the best female tennis player in the world—is now worth $150 million.

Granted,her fame and fortune didn’t come from the Olympics—despite her four gold medals. The same is true forplayers on the US men’s basketball team. For some athletes, the economics of the Olympics just doesn’t matter.

Continue reading

America's Next Blog Model – Huffington Post

Huffington Post

America's Next Blog Model
Huffington Post
We all need to make ends meet and also as travel bloggers we cannot live off the endorphin rush that travel brings alone. I get that we need to make money too, I just mind the g-string part that is often involved. I mind that readers, consumers, and

Continue reading

NFL Draft 2017 Profile: Safety Xavier Woods (Cowboys Pre-Draft Visits) – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

NFL Draft 2017 Profile: Safety Xavier Woods (Cowboys Pre-Draft Visits)
Blogging The Boys (blog)
We continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as …

Continue reading

Flyer beware: why the customer isn’t always right at 40,000ft

As a United Airlines passenger discovered recently, carriers have an extraordinary range of powers including the right to stop you travelling by almost any means

Airline passengers beware: when you buy a ticket, you are not only subjecting yourself to the ordeals of security queues, baggage limits and turbulence. You are also signing a near-40,000-word contract with a carrier that, in the extreme case of a United Airlines passenger on 9 April, could have you hauled off an overbooked aircraft legally as fellow customers and a global web audience look on aghast.

Sundays extraordinary scenes on a Chicago, Illinois, to Louisville, Kentucky, flight unfolded because of two regulations that are standard practice across the industry. The first says a passenger can be barred from a flight if the number of customers with tickets exceeds the number of seats. The second says the captain can have you removed from the plane if you get emotional about it.

Air travel is a thicket of regulations and acronyms that, of course, have your safety at heart. But there can be a thin line between guaranteeing your security and dragging a seemingly innocent passenger off an overbooked aircraft.

Flight overbooking is a phenomenon born of an industry that has struggled historically to make money. Indeed, airlines lost nearly $50bn (40bn) in the past decade due to a combination of the 9/11 attacks, high oil prices and the credit crunch. The sector is making money now, but profits are slender $9.89 per passenger per journey so taking a risk and selling 183 tickets for a 180-seater plane is worth it if three of those passengers fail to turn up and you can pocket their fare expenditure as pure profit.

United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from overbooked flight video.

Airlines have very large fixed costs, so if they dont fill the plane past a certain point they will lose money. They know a certain proportion of these passengers will not show, so they need to overbook to get to break-even or better, says Brian Pearce, the chief economist of the industrys trade body, the International Air Transport Association.

The contract of carriage at United the conditions to which you agree when you buy a ticket comes in at 37,000 words and embraces a range of arcane treaties and rules, from the Montreal and Warsaw conventions to FARs, the USs federal aviation regulations.

According to one legal expert, United was acting within its rights as the furore unfolded when it tried to find seats for four crew who needed to reach a plane they were due to operate in Louisville. But such a calamitous collision of passenger rights and airline prerogative is unlikely. It is a very rare set of circumstances, says Kevin Clarke, a flight-delay specialist at UK law firm Bott & Co. Pointing out that US airlines usually seek, and find, volunteers to come off full flights in exchange for compensation, he adds: It can be a question of who backs down first. In the case of this United flight, the passenger certainly didnt.

Uniteds contract of carriage is a joyless tour of one of the worlds most over-regulated industries, where a minority of colourful terms acts of God; civil commotions is crowded out by tightly worded legalese that will stop you from taking any future journey for granted (at least on United). Under rule five, covering cancellations of reservations, the passenger is warned that all flights are subject to overbooking, which could result in the airline being unable to put the passenger on the flight. In that scenario please bear with this rule 25, on passengers denied boarding compensation, kicks in.

Using language that inadvertently acknowledges the confrontation inherent in the situation, it states that, if no passengers agree voluntarily to give up their seats in exchange for compensation, other passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily. Admittedly, there is recompense of about $1,000 available in this scenario, but it appears that the United passenger in this case said no. This brought him head to head with the far tougher rule, enshrined under the 1963 Tokyo Convention, that says the captains word is law on an airliner and that he or she has the ultimate authority in dealing with any onboard incident.

Rule 21 of Uniteds contract states that removal of a passenger may be necessary if their conduct is deemed to be disorderly, offensive, abusive or violent. It appears that the Louisville-bound passenger refused to give up his seat voluntarily and the crew deemed his behaviour to be out of line, prompting them to call in the security team at Chicago OHare international airport.

Compensation for delays caused by overbooking is guaranteed by EU law. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, a senior pilot at a major airline said: The legal position is that you are not guaranteed to travel and that you must obey any reasonable commands of the crew. So, legally, the airline is right.

If it were me, I might have sought to promote a different solution [to allow] the crew to travel. I suspect a crew was out of hours [about to exceed its working-hours limit] or sick or injured somewhere else on the network and the decision was therefore a little late to send them on that aircraft. I think the reputational damage from the events on Facebook will be significantly worse than a delay even significant elsewhere.

Airline professionals are astonished that Uniteds overbooking procedures, in a market where overbooking is prevalent, resulted in a passenger being allowed to board before they were subsequently dragged off. John Strickland, an industry consultant whose career has included managing the overbooking process at a major airline, says carriers now have sophisticated computer systems that calibrate whether flights can get away with being overbooked right down to the specific route, the time of day and whether demand will surge due to holidays or special events. However, he adds: It is not a perfect science, which means when it goes wrong it needs to be handled sensitively. This is where United, a so-called full-service airline that tries to offer a level of customer service superior to that of budget rivals, could suffer lasting reputational damage.

At the end of rule 25, United states: UA shall not be liable for any punitive, consequential or special damages arising out of or in connection with UAs failure to provide the passenger with confirmed reserved space. Best of luck with that one, United.

An argument in favour of airline laws is what happens when they disappear. In the UK, compensation for delays caused by overbooking is covered by a regulation called EU 261/2004. According to industry lore, it came into fruition when MEPs grew exasperated with being bumped from flights to Brussels and Strasbourg. But airline passenger compensation could be one of the items of red tape that will be lobbed into the Brexit bonfire come EU independence day. One of the unintended consequences of severing links with Brussels, and abandoning EU 261/2004, is that passengers flying from the UK could be exposed when we say goodbye to the single market.

There is the possibility that we adopt the principles of the regulation [after leaving the EU], says Bott and Cos Clarke. But it is a possibility that we will be left without that protection. The obligation to put you on an alternative flight, the entitlement to compensation, that would not be there. You could be left stranded.

Another reason for Michael Gove and his fellow Brexiters to stick to the staycation.

Continue reading
1 2 3 4 12
Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Copyright Notice | Anti Spam Policy | Earnings Disclaimer | Health Disclaimers | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy