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Severe Turbulence Shakes Airline Industry

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Airplane Tail GroundedApril 15, 2008 – From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

SEVERE TURBULENCE

Only two words can describe what went on in the past couple of weeks of travel news: severe turbulence.

That’s right, American Airlines canceling 2,400 flights … The FAA in meltdown … Frontier Airlines, the fourth airline in two weeks to declare Chapter 11, although Frontier is still going to be flying.

There’s more chaos overseas at Terminal 5 at Heathrow and it just keeps getting worse. British Airways is now saying they’re delaying the move of all of their U.S. flights and long-haul services to Terminal 5. It ain’t going to happen until June. Maybe the lost bags will show up by then.

And, of course, adding to the nickel-and-dime parade, AirTran and Continental are the next two to announce charging you for that second bag if you want to check it. They continue to make my argument for me that there are only two kinds of bags in travel: carry-on and lost. Why would I spend $25 to have them lose the bag anyway?

As you know, I do not check bags, I FedEx them, but there are about 17 other services will do it. If anybody made the argument for a door-to-door courier service for your bags, the airlines are doing it.

Why would I want to wait two-and-a-half hours and then still have them lose it and still have to pay $25? That’s a triple insult, so end of discussion there.

FAA SHAMED INTO ACTION

Well, let’s go back to last week. The FAA was shamed—that’s right, shamed—into taking action. You know, it’s interesting when the FAA announces that they’re taking action. It’s interesting when the FAA announces they’re doing a crackdown and doing spot-checks.

Isn’t that what they’re supposed to be doing anyway? What are they doing?

Air Cargo Gate PlaneI’m convinced the FAA needs Quaaludes to get up in the morning because they continue to redefine the word “lethargy.”

It goes back to their relationship with the airlines. When you have the FAA, which is a regulatory agency, describing the airlines as “customers,” we have a problem. Because in this country the customer is always right and in this case, the customer ain’t right. The FAA hit that whip on the airlines last week only because they were shamed into it by those congressional hearings.

The problem is they don’t have the staff to do it anyway.

So after the next two weeks, what’s going to happen they’re going to go back to the old days of looking at paperwork and not looking at the actual maintenance being done. Anybody can check off a box on a piece of paper.

A NEW FIGHT FOR THE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS?

Senators Charles Schumer in New York and Barbara Boxer in California have now called for more bills for passenger rights.

They couldn’t get the last bill passed. If you read the language of the last bill there were so many loopholes that you could drop a Hummer through. It was meaningless.

And, the one Airline Passenger Bill of Rights that was passed by the New York state legislature got thrown out of federal court because of deregulation—because states are not allowed to regulate airlines. So bottom line is we have a lot of saber rattling and not a lot of action.

TSA INSPECTING ALL CARGO

Plane LandingThis is something I’ve been screaming about for a long time. The TSA (that’s the other federal agency that has a Quaalude problem) has announced that they are finally going to start inspecting all the cargo that is carried on the very plane you’re on.

I’ve been yelling about this for years. They’re strip-searching nuns looking for tweezers, but they’re not inspecting the cargo carried in the belly of your plane.

So, now they said they’re going to start doing it by this summer. Well, that sure beats the nipple rings they have been focusing on. And, by the way, they’re going to have a new policy for inspecting nipple rings that set off the metal detectors. You know what guys? Wake up! Start inspecting the cargo, start doing your homework, stop worrying about if my cologne is four ounces or three ounces and get real.

Common sense would be a great way to go and the problem is you give none of your people on the front lines—meaning the guys who have to operate that equipment—the flexibility and the latitude to make independent, intelligent, discretionary decisions and that’s why they are still strip-searching nuns looking for tweezers. It’s nuts.

SHOUT OUT TO AMERICAN GATE AGENTS

And finally, I have to do a shout out to the gate agents at American Airlines last week.

You got beaten up big time. And you know what, you did great.

It got crowded, real crowded, out there last week.

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

Read more from Peter’s Travel Detective Blog.

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