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Old Feb 7, 2013, 12:02 AM
A320FAN A320FAN is offline
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Default Kate Hanni to step down from FlyersRights role

Kate Hanni to step down from FlyersRights role

Today in the Sky

Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY2:42p.m. EST February 5, 2013

stepping down as the executive director of FlyersRights, the group announced today.

Hanni founded the passengers' rights organization after becoming upset about an American Airlines flight that she was on in 2006 that was stuck on the ground for nine hours in Austin.

Hanni, described by The Associated Press in a 2007 story as a "brassy real estate agent from California's wine country," turned her outrage from the incident into a grass roots effort that led to today's organization.

ARCHIVES: California woman fights for passenger rights (Feb. 2007)
Since 2006, Hanni has become an outspoken critic of the airlines as her group pressed the government to spell out protections for passengers.
Hanni's FlyersRights group said in an e-mailed statement that she is leaving her role because of "personal and family reasons."

She'll be succeeded in the role by Paul Hudson, who currently serves on the FlyersRights' executive board. Hudson, who represented Hanni in a lawsuit against American that stemmed from her 2006 incident, also was the former president and founder of the Pan Am 103 Victims Family Organization, according to FlyersRights. The group says Hudson's 16-year-old daughter died on that flight when it was brought down in a terrorist bombing over Scotland in 1988.

As for Hanni, FlyersRights lauded her in its statement as a leader who "championed consumer priorities" and "protect(ed) airline passengers" by turning the group into "a thriving 25,000+-member non-profit consumer advocacy organization that empowered the flying public with a powerful voice."

"We at FlyersRights wish to thank Kate Hanni, who started the organization from scratch, with great personal and financial sacrifice and went well beyond what could be expected," FlyersRights said in its statement about Hanni's resignation.

"FlyersRights was built out of conviction that airline passengers' rights should count as much as airlines' rights. She devoted a huge chunk of her life to testifying in Congress, speaking to the media, travel and much more. For that, we are eternally grateful to Kate."

Hanni was among the loudest voices calling for the government to hold airlines accountable for long delays that left fliers stuck onboard planes during long ground delays. The government instituted such a rule in late 2009. Now airlines face fines if passengers are stuck onboard delayed flights for more than three hours without being given the option to get off the aircraft.

FlyersRights said Hanni's lobbying of the Department of Transportation to add those rules will stand as "perhaps her signature move."

Most consumer advocacy groups lauded the rule, but it also drew condemnation from the airlines and others who feared that the rule would prompt airlines to cancel flights instead of risk drawing fines from delays. Other critics contended Hanni weighed in on additional issues — such as safety — on which she lacked expertise.

Jean Medina, spokeswoman for the Airlines for America trade group that often found itself at odds with Hanni, told Today in the Sky: "We wish her well in her future endeavors."

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