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Fliers irked as airlines pocket FAA taxes


									USA TODAY WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2011                                                                                                                                                                                                   3B

Fliers irked as airlines pocket FAA taxes
Most carriers raise fares to                                               right to set prices as they see fit,
                                                                           this is another example of the
                                                                                                                    hand, says that when the federal
                                                                                                                    taxes lapsed, it initially passed
                                                                                                                                                                     Aviation consultant Michael
                                                                                                                                                                  Boyd says he’d rather see air-
                                                                                                                                                                                                         slump that eroded profits dur-
                                                                                                                                                                                                         ing the economic downturn.

make up for suspended fees                                                 airline ‘gotcha game,’ ” says Ste-
                                                                           ven Gordon, a sales manager
                                                                           who lives in Virginia Beach. “It is
                                                                                                                    “on the equivalent discount,
                                                                                                                    down to the decimal, across the
                                                                                                                    board . . . and encouraged
                                                                                                                                                                  lines get the money than the
                                                                                                                                                                  federal government.
                                                                                                                                                                     “Consumers aren’t paying any
                                                                                                                                                                                                            “It seems greedy and tone
                                                                                                                                                                                                         deaf,” says George Hobica, foun-
                                                                                                                                                                                                         der of
                                                                           getting to the point that I feel         guests to grab the exact discount             more if the carrier ups the fare          Seaney and others say pas-
By Charisse Jones                    nue. The suspended taxes could        better about buying a used car           through the weekend,” says                    to capture the tax revenue,” he        sengers are entitled to some
and Gary Stoller                     save passengers 10% to 15% on         than an airline ticket.”                 spokeswoman Abby Lunardini.                   says, “so if a consumer isn’t will-    money back if they bought
USA TODAY                            their ticket prices, but most U.S.       Bob Lorentzen, a crisis man-          By Monday, some ticket prices                 ing to criticize the feds for the      tickets before July 23, when the
                                     carriers have boosted fares to        agement consultant, says, “Hik-          increased “given the dynamic                  tax charges, then he really has        taxes were still included in the
   Many fliers are outraged, but     the levels ticket prices would        ing fares to grab what was tax           nature of fares,” she says, but               no call to criticize the airline.”     price, but traveled after the tax-
few are surprised, that most air-    have been with the taxes still in     money to the government is just          some discounted prices were                      But others say the fare in-         es were suspended.
lines have chosen to raise fares     place, allowing the airlines to       plain nuts.”                             still available as of Tuesday.                creases are a public relations            “In theory you should be able
           rather than cut ticket    take in roughly an extra $25             On Friday, American “adjust-             Spirit, meanwhile, says its                blunder by an industry already         to get a refund,” he says, but
 Travel costs to reflect a sus-      million a day, says Rick Seaney       ed its ticket prices so the bot-         round-trip ticket prices are up to            accused by many of nickel-and-         “nobody knows how to collect it
pension of airline ticket taxes.     of                   tom-line price of a ticket re-           $50 lower because of the tax                  diming travelers who are               yet.”
   Several aviation taxes expired       As of Tuesday, only Spirit and     mains the same as it was before,         cuts it has passed on to fliers.              charged for everything from               A spokeswoman for the Trea-
after midnight Friday when           Alaska seemed to be bucking the       prior to the expiration of federal       And the discounted fares led to a             checked luggage to pillows. The        sury Department confirmed
Congress failed to reauthorize       trend, Seaney says.                   excise taxes,” says spokesman            22% rise in sales in the first three          industry has been grappling            that such fliers are entitled to a
the Federal Aviation Admini-            Frequent fliers have noticed.      Tim Smith.                               days compared with that period                with surges in fuel costs just as it   refund. The IRS website says de-
stration, which collects the reve-      “While I respect any business’        Virgin America, on the other          last week.                                    climbs back from a deep travel         tails are soon to come.

                                                                       Real estate                                                                                                     Consumers
                                                                                                                                                                                       show more
                                                                                                                                                                                       in economy
                                                                                                                                                                                       But they were far more
                                                                                                                                                                                       optimistic in February
                                                                                                                                                                                       The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                          NEW YORK — Two years into the recovery,
                                                                                                                                                                                       Americans’ confidence in the economy continues
                                                                                                                                                                                       its roller-coaster ride.
                                                                                                                                                                                          As their short-term outlook on jobs and in-
                                                                                                                                                                                       come eased somewhat amid a mix of optimistic
                                                                                                                                                                                       and bad economic news, U.S. consumers’ confi-
                                                                                                                                                                                       dence rose slightly to 59.5 in July, according to
                                                                                                                                                                                        The economy The Conference Board’s con-
                                                                                                                                                                                                             sumer confidence index, re-
                                                                                                                                                                                       leased Tuesday by the private research group.
                                                                                                                                                                                          That’s up from a revised 57.6 in June — which
                                                                                                                                                                                       was a seven-month low — but still well below the
                                                                                                                                                                                       reading of 90 that signals a healthy economy. It
                                                                                                                                                                                       hasn’t approached that level since the recession
                                                                                                                                                                                       began in December 2007.
                                                                                                                                                                                          The index measures how Americans feel about
                                                                                                                                                                                       business conditions, the job market and the next
                                                                                                                                                                By Carlos Osorio, AP
                                                                                                                                                                                       six months.
Building: Part of the Detroit skyline is visible behind a housing project under construction. May home prices in Detroit were down 9.3% year over year.                                   Brian Reardon, a 29-year-old insurance con-
                                                                                                                                                                                       sultant from New York, says there’s a reason

Home prices bounce back some
                                                                                                                                                                                       consumers aren’t confident. He’s been cutting
                                                                                                                                                                                       back on spending because all the recent un-
                                                                                                                                                                                       employment and housing data have been mixed,
                                                                                                                                                                                       making him uneasy about the economy.
                                                                                                                                                                                          “One day it’s good news,” he says, “and the
Could start falling                          port the “bounce-along-the-bottom”
                                             scenario, S&P says. New single-family
                                                                                             While the monthly numbers were
                                                                                          encouraging, all but one of the Case-              Home prices lag
                                                                                                                                                                                       next day you hear some company is downsizing.”
                                                                                                                                                                                          Economists carefully monitor consumer confi-
again after spring                           home sales in June fell 1% from May
                                             but were up 1.6% from a year ago, the
                                                                                          Shiller cities saw prices down year-
                                                                                                                                             behind last year’s
                                                                                                                                             Home prices were lower in
                                                                                                                                                                                       dence because consumer spending accounts for
                                                                                                                                                                                       70% of economic activity in the U.S.
buying season                                U.S. Department of Commerce said
                                                                                             The 20-city index posted a 4.5% drop
                                                                                          in May from May 2010 — its biggest
                                                                                                                                             May than a year ago in 19 of
                                                                                                                                             20 major U.S. cities, according
                                                                                                                                                                                          But consumer confidence has shifted like the
                                                                                                                                                                                       wind during the economic recovery, fluctuating
                                                Many economists expect national           year-over-year drop since late 2009.               to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-            as consumers react to the good and bad signals
                                                                                                                                             Shiller index. Change from
By Julie Schmit                              home prices, down more than 30%                 It was also a worse showing than in             May 2010:                                 from stock markets, corporate news and world
USA TODAY                                    since their 2006 peak, to continue to        April, when prices were down 4% year               City                     Change           events.
                                             decline for the rest of this year and        over year.                                         Atlanta                   24.6%              And confidence had rebounded by now during
   U.S. home prices edged up in May for      perhaps into next.                              Only Washington, D.C., posted a                 Boston                    23.2%           the last recession — which ended in 2001 — but it
the second-consecutive month, easing            Economist Robert Shiller, who co-         year-over-year gain, with prices up                Charlotte                 25.1%           remains shaky two years into the current recov-
some recent concern about further big        developed the closely watched Case-          1.3%.                                              Chicago                   28.1%           ery.
price drops over the next few years.         Shiller index, set off alarms in February       Minneapolis saw the biggest annual              Cleveland                 26.6%              Earlier in the year, Americans were more opti-
   Home prices rose 1% in May from           by predicting that home prices could         drop, with prices down 11.7%.                      Dallas                    24.7%           mistic that the economy was on track for a
April, thanks largely to the spring buy-     fall 10% to 25% over the next few years.        Price changes also vary by type of              Denver                    23.3%           recovery. But consumer confidence has fallen
ing season, according to Tuesday’s re-          In a Web chat session Tuesday, Shill-     home. S&P data show that lower-                    Detroit                  2 9.3%           since reaching a three-year high of 72 in Febru-
lease of Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller      er said the recent data “lowers the          priced homes in some markets are still             Las Vegas                 26.6%           ary. A shift of less than 5 points is generally
home price index for 20 major met-           probability of that scenario a little bit,   losing value at a sharp rate, while high-          Los Angeles               23.2%           discarded by economists as insignificant.
ropolitan areas.                             but I still worry about it.” IHS Global      er-priced homes are in better shape.               Miami                     25.3%              “Overall, consumers remain apprehensive
   The increases were broad, hitting 16      Insight says prices could resume falling        In Atlanta, lower-priced homes now              Minneapolis              211.7%           about the future, but some of the concern ex-
of the 20 regions. While prices typically    after the spring buying season.              have average values about 40% below                New York                  23.2%           pressed last month has abated,” said Lynn Franco,
rise in the spring, the fact that they’re       When adjusted for seasonal factors,       those of January 2000. Higher-priced               Phoenix                   29.5%           director of The Conference Board Consumer Re-
doing so this year — after five years of     home prices were largely flat in May         homes there have values 9% above                   Portland, Ore.            29.1%           search Center.
generally declining prices — is signifi-     from April, the Case-Shiller index           2000 levels.                                       San Diego                 25.1%              Even the data of different consumer confi-
                                                                                                                                             San Francisco             25.4%
cant, economists say.                        shows.                                          The situation is similar in Chicago.                                                      dence surveys don’t agree on just how concerned
                                                                                                                                             Seattle                   27.0%
   “There’s no clear up trend, but the          But seasonal adjustments are now             Those markets are still suffering                                                         Americans are. Last week, for instance, a Thom-
                                                                                                                                             Tampa                     29.5%
good news is there’s no clear down           being skewed by the large number of          from the “subprime fallout” when                                                             son Reuters/University of Michigan survey that
                                                                                                                                             Washington, D.C.          11.3%
trend, either,” says David Blitzer, chair-   foreclosure sales, which aren’t affected     risky loans were extended to people                Source: S&P/Case-Shiller                  also tracks consumer confidence showed the
man of the S&P index committee.              by seasonal factors as much as non-          who’ve since faced foreclosure, S&P                                                          measure fell in July to its lowest in more than
   Other recent housing statistics sup-      distressed home sales are, Blitzer says.     says.                                                                                        two years.

Instead of packing it in, moving-scam victim fights back                                                                                                                                                                                           owned by Yair Malol, according

a place to share                                                                                                                       How to avoid moving scams                                         to the U.S. Justice Department.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Arrested in 2003, Malol was
                                                                                                                                       1. Don’t book a moving company solely online. Meet                found guilty of wire fraud, ex-
By Natalie DiBlasio                                                                                                                    your movers before moving day.                                    tortion and conspiracy and sen-
USA TODAY                                                                                                                                                                                                tenced to 12½ years in federal
                                                                                                                                       2. Look at a variety of companies and make compari-               prison, court records show. The
   Tim Walker remembers pre-                                                                                                           sons among at least three written in-home estimates.              four companies no longer oper-
paring for his move from Ster-                                                                                                                                                                           ate as shippers of household
ling, Va., to Carson City, Nev.,                                                                                                       3. Get references from other customers.                           goods, according to the U.S De-
almost 10 years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                     partment of Transportation’s Of-
   Walker found a company on-                                                                                                          4. Check for a ProMover logo, which indicates that                fice of Inspector General. More
line that advertised the low                                                                                                           the company has passed an annual check for felony                 than 1,000 people were victims
quote of $1,869.                                                                                                                       convictions, improper advertising and good Better                 of approximately $1.8 million in
   “I just looked at the estimates                                                                                                     Business Bureau ratings.                                          fraud over a two-year period.
in front of me and picked the                                                                                                                                                                               Michael Garcia, transporta-
one that cost the least,” he says.                                                                                                     5. Check to see a compa-                  tion attorney and author of Mov-
“It was a big mistake.”                                                                                                                ny’s complaint history, its safety record and how it              ing Company Legal Guide, says
   Once everything was loaded,                                                                                                         compares with companies nationally.                               that good movers making mis-
Walker says he was told that he                                                                                                                                                                          takes often are lumped in with
had to pay $5,012.50, and half                                                                                                         Sources: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administra-                 scam artists.
was due immediately.                                                                                                                   tion; Illinois Movers’ and Warehousemen’s Associa-                   “The large majority of movers
   Feeling he had no choice,                                                                By Kristen Schmid Schurter for USA TODAY   tion; American Moving and Storage Association.                    out there are honest, profession-
Walker paid. Later, his things       A moving story: Tim Walker started the website after a com-                                                                                          al companies,” Garcia says.
were held hostage until he paid      pany tried to charge him more than twice the estimate and kept his possessions.                                                                                        Ross Sapir, general manager
more than double his estimate.                                                                                                                                                                           of New York-based Infinity
   He’d fallen victim to a scam.        These scams are a growing          anyone that will hire them,” Cal-           As of last week, the website               companies who feel that a com-         Moving and Storage, says posted
   Immediately, he started Mo-       problem, says Thomas Calcagni,        cagni says, “but many of them            has had 134,666 posts and “mil-               plaint is unfair.”                     complaints often are not valid. to share his story      director of the New Jersey Divi-      are dishonest.”                          lions of visitors,” Walker says.                Walker’s case was one of                “Anyone can post on that
and to allow other victims to        sion of Consumer Affairs, which         Posts on Walker’s website in-             “We try very hard to remove                many complaints against four           website, they can write what-
share theirs.                        recently launched a sting to          clude claims of fake companies,          bogus stories, and over the years             companies: Majesty Moving              ever they want,” Sapir says. “You
   “Every time I went to the mes-    crack down on the scams.              excessive packaging fees, bro-           we’ve become pretty adept at                  and Storage, America’s Best            cannot defend yourself.”
sage board, I saw stories as bad        “There are thousands of peo-       ken or stolen items and altered          spotting them,” Walker says. “I               Movers, My Best Movers and
or worse than mine,” he says.        ple offering moving services to       contracts.                               also try to work with moving                  Apollo Van Lines. All were uCrackdown on fraud, 1A

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