Tarmac Rule Suspension Idea Heralds Really Long Flight Delays

tarmac ruleSequester cuts have had already had an impact on travel, grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at air shows, turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport and delaying the opening of national parks. This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughs for some of its 47,000 agency employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers. Faced with flight delays that could add up to hours, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a temporary suspension of the three-hour tarmac delay rule, making air travelers the clear losers in the deal.

Just when air travelers were beginning to enjoy better on-time performance by airlines, partially fueled by the 2010 Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, evidence is mounting that U.S. airlines will experience longer and longer delays. In response, the DOT is considering an application filed by Airlines for America (A4A) and the Regional Airline Association (RAA) to suspend the three-hour tarmac delay.

That rule also requires airlines to keep toilets open, provide water and essentials for passengers held for hours on the tarmac and allow them to deplane after three hours for domestic flights and four hours on international flights.

The exemption, if granted, would greatly reduce the possibility of airlines being fined up to $27,500 per passenger.Cutbacks are estimated to delay as many as 6,700 flights each day at the nation’s 14 biggest airports said a report in the International Business Times. Airports affected include Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and all airports serving New York City.

History tells us that being without air traffic controllers is a bad idea, but not one that means long-term travel disruption. When President Reagan fired air traffic controllers in 1981, air travel slowed. But after supervisors and military controllers joined non-striking controllers, 80 percent of flights were operating normally.




[Photo credit - Flickr user shutterbug4000]

Guaranteed Weather When Traveling? Scientists Think That Might Be Possible

weather

Weather conditions at any destination around the world are hard to pin down. We may have a general idea of average temperatures for any given time of the year, know that good rain gear is required for certain places or that bringing a swimsuit is a must. But exact weather conditions can often be elusive.

But what if they were not? What if, somehow, weather conditions could be modified?

Hacking The Planet,” a new series that starts this week on The Weather Channel, shows scientists developing ways to actually change the weather. Viewers can gain some insight into ways scientists may one day prevent, weaken or redirect threatening weather conditions and natural phenomena.

In each of the six initial episodes the show asks, “What if humans were no longer as susceptible to Mother Nature’s wrath?”, a question that could undoubtedly affect travel plans in a very big way.

Getting a handle on weather-related flight delays alone would be huge.

“It simply defies nature to think that humans could prevent rain from disrupting a sporting event or use lasers to draw lightning away from sensitive areas like nuclear power plants,” said Michael Dingley, senior vice president, content and development at The Weather Channel in a press release.

Surely, making even the slightest impact on rain, snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions too could protect iconic destinations from ruin, cause otherwise-aborted travel plans to happen and more.

“It’s fascinating to imagine a world where we can could manipulate the planet’s most powerful natural forces,” adds Dingley. “If any of these experiments are successful, it’s truly mind-boggling to think what that could mean for our future.”

Hacking The Planet” premieres Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET and is just one of a growing number of travel-related programs from the Weather Channel. The channel is also home to “Coast Guard Florida,” “Hawaii Air Rescue,” “Plane Xtreme” and others. New Weather Channel series coming up include: “Prospectors,” which follows a group of miners searching for the rarest gems (March 5), “Breaking Ice,” which takes viewers to the North and South poles (April 2013), and “Tipping Points,” a show about charting climate change (October 2013).




[Image Credit - Flickr user .michael.newman.]

Swarm Of Bees Delays Delta Flight From Taking Off

beeHere’s a new reason your plane could be delayed. Last week, a Delta flight from Pittsburgh to JFK was grounded when thousands of bees clung to the aircraft’s left wing.

According to news.com.au, passengers looked on in shock, snapping pictures with their phones. The flight was delayed 20 minutes as beekeeper Stephen Repasky removed the insects.

Repasky explained the honeybees were harmless and were resting. Moreover, he believes there is a colony somewhere on the airport grounds.

That would make sense, since, according to Pittsburgh International Airport spokeswoman Joanne Jenny, this is the fourth time this year bees have invaded the airport.

What’s the strangest reason you’ve ever had a flight delayed?

[Image via MarkSweep]

Europe flights still delayed as airports try to catch up

Europe, London, snowThousands of travelers in Europe still don’t know if they’ll be home for Christmas as airports struggle to deal with a huge backlog of flights. Unusually heavy snowfall in Northern Europe led to cancellations in several countries. London’s Heathrow airport was hardest hit. BBC reports that the UK Army offered to help, but Heathrow refused.

The world’s busiest airport is only running at 30 percent capacity until at least 6a.m. Thursday, and extension of 24 hours beyond the original announcement. Since Heathrow is a hub for so many airlines, this is affecting many other airports.

A friend of mine here in Madrid had two flights to the UK canceled before she finally got on a plane that took her home. She was one of the lucky ones. Five thousand people had to camp out at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, most of whom were headed to London.

So if you’re flying to, from, or within Europe, make sure to check your flight before heading to the airport.

[Photo courtesy Alexandre Moreau Photography via Gadling's flickr pool]

Snow continues to disrupt Europe flights and trains

Europe, europe, snowLast night much of northern Europe got another dumping of snow, worsening the continent’s travel woes, the BBC reports. An unusually high amount of snowfall over the weekend left many passengers stranded as runways got buried and ice built up on wings. This latest snowfall has led to another round of cancellations.

Trains are overbooked as passengers look for alternative means of travel, but the snow is affecting how fast trains can go. Some companies, including Eurostar and those in Germany, are telling people to stay home.

Heathrow is suffering the most and will only be able to run 30% of its flights until 6a.m. Wednesday, and that’s assuming more snow doesn’t make matters worse.

Frankfurt airport, which has had to cancel almost 300 flights last night, tried to cheer up stranded passengers by bringing in clowns to entertain them. No news on how well that worked.

So if you’re traveling to, from, or within Europe this holiday season, be sure to check your flight status before heading to the airport.

[Photo courtesy Luke Robinson via Gadling's flickr pool]