If you’ve been watching The Early Show, you saw the piece on the woes of Virgin America Flight 404 in which passengers were stuck for 16 hours. It raised the issue of passenger rights, just before the new bill of rights rule that kicks in on April 29.
Will there be a shootout at the OK Corral between the airlines and the government, as the airlines are basically saying, “We don’t want to play by those rules.”
Why would you want to play by those rules as an airline?
If you keep people stranded for more than three hours and don’t bring them back to the gate, you’d better fasten your seat belts—at least if you’re an accountant for the airlines—because you’re then liable for fines up of up to $27,500 per passenger! If the rules had kicked in earlier, it could have affected the Virgin America flight to the tune of $3.2 million.
Learn more: New Passenger Rights Laws Could Shake Up Aviation.
So what are the airlines saying? Get ready for this… they’re saying at the very first sign of a raindrop, a snowflake, or dark cloud, they’re going to aggressively and preemptively cancel their flights. That’s their bluff. Of course, if they do that, they don’t get any revenue!
In some airports, like JFK where they’ve closed one runway for repaving, Delta, JetBlue and American have already asked the Department of Transportation for an exemption to the rule. I’ve got a better idea: Why don’t you reschedule your flights? By scheduling 34 flights at 8 a.m., you have to be delusional to think you’re all going out on time. If you’re on the 34th flight, bring a copy of War and Peace because you’re going to be reading it.
I’d much rather take a flight with no delays at 9 p.m. than a flight with a four-hour delay that’s supposed to leave at 5 p.m. Let’s start staggering those flights. Instead of scheduling to be competitive, let’s schedule to be realistic. How much money would the airlines save from all that wasted fuel they’re burning on the tarmac? Not to mention all that passenger ill-will they’re engendering with people like me who are stuck in those seats with nowhere to go.
Let’s see how long it takes for some common sense to prevail and for the airlines to start rescheduling in a realistic way. Since airlines want to keep that coveted 8 a.m. departure, I think it’s going to come down to a rule from the DOT to enforce. They’ll say, “We’ll do a lottery and American Airlines will get a slot at 8:03 a.m., Delta at 8:07 a.m., Continental at 8:13a.m.” It will make for realistic scheduling and passengers won’t get stuck.
I took another trip recently to Scottsboro, Alabama. You’ve probably never heard of it, it’s about two hours outside of Birmingham.
It’s the size of three Kmarts, and everything is for sale. Seven thousand new items a day that are coming out of your bags because you were stupid enough to check them.
It’s one of the most-visited tourist sites in Alabama, with 800,000 visitors shopping there every year. They even have an annual ski sale of stuff lost from passenger bags!
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com.
Read more from Peter’s Travel Detective Blog.
- Unclaimed Baggage Center: Where Lost Luggage Finds a New Home
- New Passenger Rights Laws Could Shake Up Aviation
- Senate Approves FAA Reauthorization, Includes Passenger Rights & Air Traffic Upgrades
- Aviation Safety in America & the Crash of Flight 3407