Now Air Travel Sucks More

jetblueHappy New Year. Air travel sucks more.

Over time airlines have offered less and less to passengers. Remember food? We’ve got smaller seats, crowded planes and baggage fees.

Now, airlines have begun to eat away at any semblance of dependability.

JetBlue cancelled hundreds of flights over the weekend into Tuesday. More weather than they’re staffed to handle! It’s as simple as that.

JetBlue decides how much they want to spend to be prepared. Their threshold for preparedness falls below this weekend’s weather. The weather was bad, but snow falls in the Northeast nearly every year. An FAA rule affecting pilot rest hours just kicked in, but JetBlue knew it was coming two years ago.

After hundreds of cancellations over the weekend, JetBlue shut down their major Northeast operations Monday at 5:00 PM. Things start up again in the morning, gradually. They just need some ‘me’ time.

JetBlue operates as many as 240 departures and arrivals daily in Boston, and as many as 440 departures and arrivals a day at the New York City region’s three major airports: John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International. The airline said the hiatus would allow for “17 hours of rest for our equipment and crew members and time to service aircraft.” – Wall Street Journal

As airlines have figured out how to fly mostly full planes, options for displaced travelers have disappeared. Miss a flight? Be prepared to wait many days.

Richard Bellefeuille said he had been sitting with his two young sons at Logan since Saturday evening. The boys were supposed to fly to San Francisco at 8 p.m., but after hours of delays, the flight was finally canceled at 3 a.m. The airline told them the next available flight leaves Saturday.

“Their mother’s in San Francisco, but they were here with me for the holidays and it looks like I’ll have them an extra week,” he said. – Boston Globe

When I was a kid, flying was very expensive. Only rich people and celebrities traveled by air. Air travel was luxurious.

Flying has been democratized. Inflation adjusted prices are way below what I paid when I finally did buy a ticket.

Deregulation has been a mixed blessing to travelers. Lower fares, but more hassle.

I liked it better the way it was when I couldn’t afford to use it! There are no easy answers.

6 thoughts on “Now Air Travel Sucks More”

  1. Geoff, the comments you said have been going on for years. I have been bringing my own food on a plane for a long time. My brother-in-law was saying that Boston is probably the worst airport when it comes to winter. They don’t do a very good job of cleaning their runways. He never wanted to fly to Boston during the winter months. The other airports in the northeast are no better. He felt the worst airline for maintance was Alaska Airport and would never fly on their planes. When you have been a pilot for 38 yrs, you have seen it all. After 9/11, things have gotten worse. If I can avoid flying on any carrier, I will. I have flown on hundreds & hundreds & hundreds of planes over the past 40+ yrs. Airlines are thinking about the all mighty dollar and forget about the passengers.

  2. As much as I love flying, it’s gotten to be too much of a hassle. I figure anything within the continental US is within driving distance. I can be a hundred miles down the road in less time than it takes the TSA to feel me up.

  3. Geoff,
    You are 100% spot on. Airfares are too cheap hence horrible service.

    This weekend my son got stuck in denver when frontier “forgot” about new
    pilot rest rule until plane was in line to takeoff. The announced
    that the flight was going to be canceled (after a 3 hour delay) and there were no
    seats to anywhere until Tueaday. I managed to beg a lot and get
    my son out but I (he) was very lucky.

    I told me kids that we should celebrate thanksgiving the second weekend in November. Low airfares, empty airports and low fares. Time for others to start
    thinking outside the box.

  4. Geoff:

    As a regular air traveler, you would be right about a lot of this, if it weren’t 48 below. Considering that de-icing fluid has frozen at many of these airports, it is a risk that isn’t worth taking. The planes in this cold are simply not safe.

    Not to ignore the personnel that would have to be out in this cold, including the tarmac folks, the baggage handlers and even some of the crews. How long would it take for the media to vilify an airline for trying to take off in this stuff, putting their personnel at risk.

    There was an article on the news this morning about Amtrak and some of the cross country zephyrs that are now stranded in rural Illinois (one at least for 14 hours) because the tracks were too covered with snow and it was too cold.

    This is an unusual situation and I was flying as recently as Thursday when the first blast of weather came in. I was lucky to get home and I know that. But i made provisions on both sides of my trip in the event I got caught up in the delays.

  5. Geoff,

    The current chaos being experienced by the airlines, was an operational meltdown of epic proportions. To use the cliche’, it was a “perfect storm”. The turn on of the new FAR Part 117 rules governing new flight and duty time regulations for pilots and other crew members, coupled with extreme weather conditions blanketing the most heavily traveled and congested airspace in the world, was the perfect recipe for such a condition to exist. Make no excuse, the airlines did have years to prepare for the new regulations, but like any new policy, it’s flaws are glaringly revealed once they go live. As much as one tries to prepare and anticipate, inevitably all contingencies cannot be predetermined. Despite what has been publically reported about the airlines woes by the media, in realty, those on the “inside” know that the situation is actually many fold worse Unfortunately, things are probably not going to get better for the airline employee or the traveling public anytime soon.

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