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Shrinking airline seats, no free meals raise alarm, says passenger rights advocate

Click to play video: 'Airline rights advocate raises alarm over changing industry standards'
Airline rights advocate raises alarm over changing industry standards
ABOVE: Questions are being raised about all the changes being made by airlines -- everything from no free meals on flights to limited legroom. Gabor Lukacs of Air Passenger Rights explains why it's time for standard seating and legroom on airplanes – May 31, 2016

As the summer travel season gets underway, many are getting ready for their next trip.

However, questions are being raised about all the changes being made by airlines – everything from no free meals on flights to limited legroom.

“What we see here is a race to the bottom in all possible aspects,” said Gabor Lukacs from airpassengerrights.ca. “Even from a purely economic point of view, that’s not healthy for technology. What we need to have is better technology, not the same old technology being sold with less services.”

Lukacs said the smaller seats are also concerning for health reasons and there have been cases where people have developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT), when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in your legs.

“This is exactly the reason I believe there should be regulations to how small an airline seat can be to ensure passengers are not injured while they’re flying,” he said.

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The airline industry says there is no proven link between deep vein thrombosis and flying and that some passengers have pre-existing conditions that can cause DVT.

But for Lukacs, the entire airline industry is sinking to a new low.

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Lukacs said airlines are now investing in marketing techniques to sell the same service as before, but with less being offered to the consumer.

“The airlines still want us to pay the same amount but give us less,” he said. “They are simply cutting the price into smaller pieces. There’s the base fare, then perhaps the boarding pass fare, a baggage fare, a fuel surcharge, a meal fare, an entertainment fare, but when you add it all up, it comes out to more than what the ticket used to be, which is the reason that airlines now have record profits.”

Recently, some WestJet customers have questioned the fact that on a nine-hour flight from Vancouver to London, Gatwick, passengers are only able to purchase meals and only snacks are included.

https://twitter.com/alessiamu/status/737400636421996544

“I find that very troublesome,” said Lukacs. “Not because it’s a question of comfort, and this is really the main thing that people should bear in mind when they make a choice with whom they fly. There are issues of comfort, and yes we may have to pay more for comfort, but actually not being able to eat or not eating for a long flight, that is already getting into the health questions.”

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“If that’s what WestJet wants to do, then they have to disclose the price of their meals at the time you buy your ticket as it’s an optional service and it’s part of the transportation regulations.”

Lukacs said passengers should seek a refund if they were not told about what was included and not included in the ticket when it was purchased.

“The real problem that I’m seeing with consumer issues related to airlines is that we have regulatory capture,” added Lukacs. “The situation where those who are actually supposed to regulate the industry are way too cozy, to put things gently, with the industry they’re supposed to regulate.”

In a statement to Global News, WestJet said:

We do not offer complimentary meals on any of our flights, except in our Plus section. We never have and our rationale is simple. Our guests have always told us that they do not want to pay for things they do not need or want, and that includes expensive meals. We’ve always offered snacks, some of which are free, as well as light meals (eg. sandwiches) for a fee. We’ve also always allowed our guests to bring their own food on board, if they wish. The bottom line is that our guests want low fares – and that’s exactly what we’ve provided for some 20 years now.

Our London service is no different. From our announcement last September, we have offered Canadians a chance to fly to Europe for a fraction of the price being charged by our competitors. Your viewers could purchase a seat from Vancouver to London non-stop for as little as $299 including all taxes, fees and surcharges. Most of these fares were matched by our competitors, but once more Canadians have WestJet to thank for lowering fares.

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