Monday, 19 January 2004

Northwest Airlines admissions on lack of privacy safeguards

Northwest Airlines (NW) released a statement last night attempting to explain why CEO Richard Anderson said in September 2003, “Northwest Airlines will not share customer information, as JetBlue Airways has”, when in fact — as NASA documents released to EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act show — NW had done exactly that. NW says that, “At the time Mr. Anderson answered this question, he had no knowledge of the Northwest Security Department?s provision of passenger data for the NASA research study.”

That might well be true — and if so, it’s an incredible indictment of the (lack of) privacy protection, awareness ,and safeguards on the part of NW and, unfortunately, most other travel companies. JetBlue Airways, some of you may recall, also said that its CEO had been unaware that a complete copy of the company’s entire reservation archive had been given to a military contractor.

Consider what this means for Northwest, jetBlue, and companies like them:

  1. Complete control and authority over the most sensitive personal information about travellers, including authority to disseminate it in bulk, has been delegated to second-level departmental managers.
  2. No safeguards or procedures are in place that would require consultation of, or notice to, the CEO or a privacy officer (so far as I can tell, neither jetBlue nor Northwest had, or yet have even now, a designated privacy officer) for disclosure of passenger data, even on the largest possible scale.
  3. No privacy or data protection and security audits or reports are made that would bring such disclosure or dissemination of sensitive customer data to the attention of the CEO or Chief Privacy Officer.

There’s no hint of apology in the NW statement, by the way: “Northwest believes that it was appropriate to provide [passenger reservation] data … to NASA”.

Meanwhile, DontSpyOn.US and the Washington Times, Study used census information for terror profile dig into the implications of the use of both NW passenger name records and 1990 U.S. Census data in the same NASA study .

Not surprisingly, some (former) NW customers, even at their headquarters hub in Minneapolis/St. Paul, are saying they will never fly Northwest again . And I’ve already heard from at least one Twin Cities privacy attorney researching a possible lawsuit against NW on behalf of passengers.

If you’re interested in an overview of US-VISIT, CAPPS-II, and other privacy issues related to travel records, I’ll be speaking on Tuesday, 27 January 2004, from 6-8:45 p.m., at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library , 2940 Benvenue Ave. (at Ashby), on “The monitoring and surveillance of visitors and travellers in the USA.”

And I’ve gotten approval from the program committee for this year’s Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference (also in Berkeley, coincidentally, 20-23 April 2004), for a “Birds-Of-a-Feather” (BOF) session on “Travel Data and Privacy”, most likely Thursday night, 22 April. BOF’s are usually quite informal and relatively unstructured, but I would welcome suggestions for the agenda from any of you planning to be at CFP and interested in participating.

As always, the latest details are on my events page .

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 19 January 2004, 21:08 ( 9:08 PM)

Would you have the snail mail address to send a letter to the CEO of NW Airlines?

Posted by: Michaeleen, 2 May 2004, 16:50 ( 4:50 PM)

We are recently home from an adventurous flight to NE. Levi, Kristen, and I left at 6am (which means we were up at 4:30am -- not what I call fun!) after narrowly getting onboard. Levi came down with the flu right about the time of the last boarding call and continued to be sick over and over again all the way there -- what a trooper. Well not too many hours later we were circling around Lincoln NE. Actually around and around and up and down from turbulence as well, as we waited for the near tornado strength winds on the ground to pass.

After a while the pilot announced we were being sent to Omaha. After not being able to land there we were back to Lincoln. Still unable to land we were going to Minneapolis since we only had enough fuel for another hour. We were about 20 minutes from landing when he said we were being diverted to Des Moines IA ... then back to Minneapolis ... then back to Des Moines. Our pilot summed it all up with this comment showing that he knows God is in charge, "Someone somewhere has a reason for this."

After we finally landed we almost didn't care where we were because we were on the ground. I immediately called Randy and told him we were in Iowa. He took a deep breath and said, "Oh honey. What happened?" I told him we accidentally got on the wrong plane. Unfortunately my April Fools Day joke kind of backfired. He had no problem believing I had done that!

Kristen and I left Levi, still green around the gills, with the bags watching the thunder and lightening storm light the skies and shake the terminal. We did what any smart woman does with time to kill, we went shopping. Not too long later I decided to look down the hall. Kristen joined me and asked, "Hey isn't that Levi flailing his arms down there?" We nearly out shopped our layover.

After another flight and a total of 12 hours we finally did make it to the ground in Lincoln. Unfortunately one of our most important bags didn't make it. We travel with what we need for speaking in carryon bags so we are ready to go even if our luggage isn't with us. In Seattle they had taken our carryons and gate checked them since they were out of room on the plane. Of three pieces the one with my power point projector and Levi's clothes didn't make it. Levi was devastated to have to wear jeans, tennis shoes, and a casual shirt to the conference. J

Another box came with us but Homeland Security was being diligent in their checking and opened it with some sort of machete or something. They sliced through two thick layers of cardboard and well into the top layer of books inside. We had a wonderful conference sans projector and with a new book design.

The night before we left we watched blue lightening from under the covers and the hurricane warnings flashing on the television screen. Our trip home was relatively uneventful. I reported to Northwest Airlines an expensive hair clip of mine that had been broken in transit. The young man behind the counter asked if it had been inside my bag. When I told him it had he replied that contents inside of bags were not covered. Now I already was not overly impressed with the airline that sent us back and forth and forth and back without bags a few days earlier, when I heard this I politely inquired if I had had the hair clip on the outside of the bag would it have been covered. He said that things outside of bags were not covered either, even handles, wheels, and straps.

So Levi, Kristen, my broken hair clip complements of Northwest Airlines, and I hurried and boarded a plane where we proceeded to sit on the runway for 1 hour and 20 minutes waiting to burn off the extra 500 lbs. of fuel the obviously public schooled airline employee had loaded. This ate up our layover in which we were to have picked up dinner for the flight home. As we boarded the last leg of the flight I asked the stewardess if there was food. She said, "Northwest Airlines has not served food for five years. Welcome to bankruptcy."

Even though Northwest will not be our carrier of choice our hearts were uplifted by the warm welcome we received.

Posted by: Lorrie, 8 April 2006, 12:59 (12:59 PM)

I'm sure what an "URL" is but could you please help me find the mailing address for the coporate officers for Northwest Airlines? I've searched for hours this past weekend and have had no luck. Is there any possibility that you would have email addresses as well.

I had an extremely difficult problem with the NWA staff in their Charlottesville airport in Virginia. Can you read what I wrote and give me your feedback as to what you think about it and also if you think there is a better way to handle the situation outline in my letter? Thanks, I am deeply grateful for any help as I feel all I do is run into deadends. Thanks, here it is:

March 4, 2007

Douglas M. Steenland
President and Chief Executive Officer
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

J. Timothy Griffin
Executive Vice President-Marketing and Distribution
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Andrew C. Roberts
Executive Vice President-Operations
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Michael J. Becker
Senior Vice President-Human Resources and Labor Relations
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Crystal Knotek
Senior Vice President-Customer Service and Ground Operations
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Mary Carroll Linder
Senior Vice President-Corporate and Brand Communications
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Kenneth J. Hylander
Vice President-Safety and Engineering and Chief Safety Officer
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

On February 22, my 13 year daughter, Katie was scheduled to fly out of Charlottesville, Virginia. At that airport, the 2 Customer Service Agent working at the Delta Airlines Reservation desk, evidently part of Northwest Airlines had taken care of ticketing customers. In the span of 5 minutes, the fee for the unaccompanied minor jumped from $45 to $75 to $150 roundtrip. My daughter paid for it with her own charge card for someone to accompany her. Isn't ironic that my daughter pays for someone to watch her and then it didn't happen. Those 2 female customer service agent at the reservations desk were extremely rude and made insulting comments to my child and also to the staff person from Mary Baldwin College that drove my daughter to the airport. These people have some anger issues and it is not okay to take it out on a minor. There is a fee you charge, $75 for one way for that service. No one should be verbally abusing a child in any manner for any reasons.

After verbally abusing Katie and making her cry, she had to call me on her cell phone for help, (and she's someone who rarely ever cries), they refused her flight out of Virginia, a flight I had scheduled a month in advance. Katie handed her phone to the CSA and I talked to the CSA at that time. They treated me just as bad and was screaming into the phone as well as being verbally abusive towards me. Does a minority name gives them the right to treat me badly? I think they have worked as CSA agents way too long and forgot how to treat customers in a respectful and diplomatic way.

The flight attendants from Virginia to Detroit were very nice and kind. The person that accompanied my child upon arrival at Detroit to her connecting flight to Chicago was also very nice and kind. However, as cordial as the flight attendants were on the flight to Chicago, they lost her upon arrival in Chicago. My daughter had asked how to get to luggage upon arrival and they blew her off. Additionally, during the flight, one flight attendant yelled to another one from the front of the plane to the rear of the plane "to keep an eye on the minor in seat 9E". By doing this, they had just announced to the entire plane there was a young teen on the plane traveling alone. The plane was booked full and imagine if that was your child. Is this the way you would want your child treated?

When the flight attendant blew my daughter off, another man offered to take her to the luggage. As my daughter deplane, this man lead my daughter towards the opposite direction of the luggage. As they were walking, my daughter was reading the signs and realized suddenly that the man was not an employee of Northwest Airlines and turned around quickly and went towards the right direction. I found her scared and rattled by her experience. Northwest Airlines should considered themselves extremely lucky this did not end up tragically. I had no time to look for a supervisor to complain as my daughter was already running late for her harp audition for Roosevelt University. The reason she was running late for the audition was because your incompetent staff in Charlottesville, as it turned out that they were vindictive enough once they decided to charge her for the unaccompanied minor fee, decided not to let her board her flight which was scheduled for 2:21 pm on 2/22/07. They said because the flight was running late there was a chance that she would miss her connecting flight in Detroit scheduled for 7:00pm. Although there was another flight scheduled for around 10 pm that night they decided not to let her fly at all. She missed an entire afternoon of classes just to get to Chicago on time for her audition the next day. That's a span of 8 hours, enough time to catch any flight. She had to take a return trip back to her college which was another 45 minutes back after spending almost 3 hours at the airport. They scheduled a flight at 6:00 am the next morning, on Friday 2/23/07. Her flight plans were scheduled a month in advanced, her audition was scheduled 6 weeks in advance and was scheduled for 11:00 downtown Chicago on 2/23/07. This was the last day of auditions and this audition was the last one of the day. This should never have happened.

We did not arrive back home until around 5 pm on Friday 2/23/07. There were 3 phone messages left on my answering machine to let me know they lost my child, which I already knew since I found her. I was not able to reach Bobby Johnson , supervisor from the Chicago division of your company. He could only apologized and promised to look into the matter. I told him that since they did not keep an eye on my child, at the very minimum, he needed to find out what happened and refund my $75 unaccompanied minor fee. Given the fact that he was cooperative, I said I would not pursue it if he looked into the very rude, insensitive and unprofessional treatment of my daughter. He promised to return my call in 2 to 3 days. I waited patiently and he did return my call. He said he was having a hard time trying to track down what had happened because the flight attendants all had different schedules and offered to refund the charges that my minor daughter paid for someone to watch her to assure her safe arrival. I accepted his explanation and expected him to follow through.

Imagine my surprise when I found out today, Sunday, March 4, 2007 that he listed on the explanation that my daughter was a runaway, instead of resolving the issue. Although it may seem minor to you, that listing set off a chain of events that led to another verbal abusive treatment of my daughter. The ticket agent in Chicago was kind. All the flight attendants were nice all the way from Chicago to Detroit to Charlottesville. Although upon her arrival in Virginia, the same CSA supervisor and the man paid to watch Katie treated her abusively. Grabbing a child who is 5'7" is not acceptable in light of the fact that your airline let her off the plane with a stranger, a man. I told her that she is never allowed to let anyone to touch her, especially men. Touching any child can be construed as child molestation. Your staff in Virginia needs sensitivity training and really need desk jobs away from the public because they have shown a pattern of behavior that I do not find acceptable in any way.

The man who was supposed to watch her, (which may I remind you, was a service we had paid for), until her pickup ride arrived treated my daughter with verbal abuse and then grabbed by daughter and went to the ticket counter where my daughter was verbally abused by the same ticket agent that gave her a hard time when she left Virginia. The only conclusion I could come to was that because I had made a complaint against the ticket agent she became verbally abusive to the point that they were screaming at Katie making her cry once again. Also listed in the computer it said my daughter had run away upon her arrival in Chicago. Your airline lost her by letting her leave with a stranger. My daughter was crying hysterically as she phoned me from Virginia that I told her to go immediately to airport security. Grabbing a child is physical abuse. She walked to the airport security, not running. She has every right to when she sense that her life is threatened in any capacity. It is the right thing to do. And if your people was not doing anything wrong, there should not have been any reason for her not to be able to seek help from airport security.

My daughter tried to get to the airport security and was prevented from doing so because the ticket agent yelled at her to sit down. The man for which we paid for to watch her was mad because he had to waste his time to watch her. The man who was assigned to watch her had mumbled something to her with his back turned to her. She thought he told her to get her luggage. When he saw her at the luggage area, he went into an uncontrollable rage, yelling and screaming at my daughter. She was crying and scared so she called me. I instructed her to go over to airport security immediately. The ticket agent then jumped in with her barrage of expletives and called her one of the worst passengers they have ever had. What in the world are these adults doing working with a minor, much less the public? A fee of $75 was paid for this service and I expect that my daughter to be treated with respect as you would treat any other passengers. Again, I think reason they were mad is because I made complaints against their treatment of my daughter plus the fact that Northwest lost my child and instead of taking responsibility, they put her in as a runaway in the system. Your own supervisor took a shortcut. Instead of resolving the issue, he simply put in the system that the she was a runaway. How dare your company do that when I was considerate enough to trust your supervisor, Bobby Johnson to do a thorough investigation. He didn't do his job and wrote down false information into your system which resulted in harsh treatment of my child.

Where in the world is she running away to? I was at the airport to pick her up. I called Mary at 734.229.7144 at Northwest Airlines when my daughter arrived at Detroit to let her know that the person picking up my daughter would be Bobbi Knous. So where is she running away to? She had pick ups at ending points on her travels with Northwest Airlines. Bobbi was at the airport less than 10 minutes after the plane had arrived because as soon as Katie called me crying hysterically, I called the college and they said that Bobbi was already at the airport in Charlottesville. I called Mary who is in charge of minors in Virginia for NWA. When I tried to explained what happened, she put me on hold then hung up. I call her again, and Mary then accused my daughter of lying when she called me, which I don't believe because my daughter called me the minute she was verbally abused asking for help. She was responsible enough to call me when she arrived in Detroit to let me know she got there safely. Mary also then accused me of lying. I am so incensed with the accusations and the verbal abuse from 3 of your employees that I have now decided to file a police report on your service of losing my child. I am contacting the FAA with strong words of your airline's misconduct. I am also hiring a lawyer for all the abuse that I and my daughter have received from your airline. I gave your airline more understanding and latitude than Northwest deserved and yet the treatment we received in return was without warrant. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who will tell you that my daughter is a behavior problem including your own flight attendants.

My daughter is a gifted young lady. At 13 years old she is a freshmen in college on a merit scholarship. She is a straight A student with many achievements and awards and no history of any behavior problems. When your employees act inappropriately and lied to the person who picked up my daughter, she immediately took my daughter out of the airport because she herself could not believe the accusations. Bobbi is a Resident Assistant in the dorm my daughter lives in and my daughter has led an exemplary life at college without so much as one complaint from anyone from college or any of her previous schools. She is a group leader at her college in raising funds for cancer research, has done a lot of charitable work, donated many hours and money for supplies to kids from economically disadvantaged schools, is well mannered, likable and has done outstanding achievements.

Does it occur to your company that the only problems that she has had are with the people who work for Northwest Airlines are all out of the Charlottesville airport in Virginia. All the flight attendants have had no problems with her and have been friendly and kind.

She has flown from Virginia to Chicago every month since October, 2006 and has never had any problems with any other airlines. I think that your employees have anger management issues and do not know how to deal with the public and think that they can treat people badly because they have the power and total control of who gets to fly and who doesn't.

If you are not aware of this issue, you have know been informed. Fortunately, most of my conversations with your airline have been recorded on my cell phone. As you know, all phone calls made from cell phones are logged in with time and date stamped.

Again, the following steps are my intentions right now as to what I am going to do for the mistreatment that my daughter and verbal abuse that both she and I have received from your employees from Charlottesville, Virginia:

1. File police report for the lost child incident in Chicago naming your airline as liable.
2. Contact FAA for misconduct of your company.
3. I will be contacting a lawyer to file suit again Northwest.
4. Going public with the treatments we received from your airline to the media.
5. I intend on emailing and sending letters to as many colleges and universities regarding the treatment that your airline provides to college kids. I want them to be informed as I wished someone had informed of how rude, insulting, and unprofessional your employees are. No one should have to fly with an airline that is both verbally and physically abusive.

What would change my mind for the course of actions listed above? I would need apology letters from the Customer Service Agents involved, Mary at 734.229.7144 at Northwest Airlines, a permanent letter of reprimand placed in the files of those 3 people plus the man who physically grabbed and verbally abused my child (and have them transfer to jobs that makes it so that they don't have contact with the public because of their unacceptable behavior and vulgar language), and a letter of explanation from Bobby Johnson, (773.686.5510) supervisor located at O'Hare Airport, Northwest Airlines in Chicago, Illinois. These are my terms and I will accept nothing less.


Gini Chung

Posted by: Anonymous, 5 March 2007, 10:19 (10:19 AM)

I would like everyone to know that the Northwest Airline ( NWA ) site errored and booked the wrong date on my flight. When I complained the employees kept me on hold for 2.5 hours and then did nothing to remedy the problem. If I were a potential passenger on Northwest Airline I would worry for my safety. These folks cannot keep there website running much less a complex aircraft.

Posted by: Perryd, 6 August 2007, 10:48 (10:48 AM)

An apology letter has been sent to Ms. Gini Chung and especially to her daughter for the callous nature in which the minor was handled. We hope this public apology will be suffficient.

Posted by: Katrina McNeal, 2 December 2009, 20:33 ( 8:33 PM)

It is my understanding that Mary has since been fired from her job as a customer service agent.

Posted by: Anonymous, 4 December 2009, 09:56 ( 9:56 AM)
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