Hot, Tired Airline Patrons Sing R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ In Protest To Long Wait Times



In a now viral video, passengers on an Allegiant Air flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas this past Sunday took matters into their own hands after allegedly being delayed on and off the tarmac for several hours – often with no air conditioning in the hot Nevada weather. Their solution to the high temperatures and tempers? Playing and singing along with R. Kelly’s hit song, “I Believe I Can Fly.”

User qtip83 posted the original link to Reddit, stating that he was flying back from a bachelor party with 15 of his friends when their flight was stuck for several hours due to mechanical problems.

This incident is raising concerns about passenger safety and the overall length of time people can be kept on the tarmac with mechanical problems.The original poster alleges that the delay was around five hours, but not spent consecutively on a plane. “We changed planes after 2 hours,” he wrote, stating that they then “[s]pent one hour in the airport, and then 2 more hours on the second plane that broke down. So technically it was not more than 3 hours consecutively on the tarmac.

According to the above poster, the DOT did not violate aviation rules that prevent planes from sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours.

The US Department of Transportation Consumer Aviation Protection even weighed in on the thread, stating:

DOT rules prohibit most U.S. airlines from allowing a domestic flight to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours unless: the pilot determines that there is a safety or security reason why the aircraft cannot taxi to the gate and deplane its passengers, or Air traffic control advises the pilot that taxiing to the gate (or to another location where passengers can be deplaned) would significantly disrupt airport operations.

U.S. airlines operating international flights to or from most U.S.airports must each establish and comply with their own limit on the length of tarmac delays on those flights. On both domestic and international flights, U.S. airlines must provide passengers with food and water no later than two hours after the tarmac delay begins. While the aircraft remains on the tarmac lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.

What do you think, readers? Was the mid-delay escapade funny or just plain annoying? Should the airline have been better prepared to handle the delay?

Spirit Airlines fed up, says government has hidden agenda

Spirit airlinesThis week, Spirit Airlines, mad about new airline disclosure rules, started adding a $4 “unintended consequences of DOT regulations” fee to ticket prices. It’s just the latest in a salvo of complaints by airlines over new fare disclosure rules they feel are unfair.

Spirit Airlines isn’t happy with the new rule requiring airlines to include all taxes and mandatory fees in the quoted airfare price and posted a big “Warning!” sign pop-up on the carrier’s website making that quite clear earlier this week. The pop-up is gone now but the information is still prominently displayed, urging consumers to contact their Congressional Representatives to complain.

In a direct attack on the new rules Spirit says “If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes. (Yes, such talks are already underway.)” on their linked web site, keepmyfareslow.org.

Spirit believes that with the total price on display up front, it looks like airlines are raising their prices which could drive away consumers, something a low-cost airline can not afford.

“We’re against these new regulations because we actually think it reduces transparency,” Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza told Time this week. “We think it makes it harder for consumers to understand what they’re paying for.”

The new regulations of airline marketing also allow passengers to wait as long as 24 hours to pay for a reservation, a huge change from policies airlines have requiring immediate, nonrefundable payment for discount fares.

Here is where they might have a point: its a trade-off of sorts.

Airlines often struggle to fly full planes and need to have them full to make a profit. The airline gives a discount to attract buyers and expects that seat to stay sold in return.

Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said in a statement that “the new rule takes seats out of circulation, albeit temporarily, limiting the inventory for people willing to pay on the spot. As a result, he said, the airline now has to spread costs over fewer passengers, and add the $4 fee” reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Confusing? Looking at this from a different angle might provide some clarity. This is an issue that cruise lines, exempt from disclosure rules, have begun dealing with recently also.

Traditionally doing what DOT rules are having airlines do just now, travel agents or passengers booking directly could put a courtesy hold on a cruise cabin to lock in the price and availability for a given period of time. That took the cabin out of the available inventory for others to choose from, much like airlines are being forced to do now. Affecting available inventory and pricing even more, huge blocks of cabins on a given sailing could be held out of available inventory for a proposed group sailing, artificially inflating occupancy levels.

On the other end, cruise line cancellation policies were more generous in the past, allowing passengers to book up to a year or more in advance and cancel just before final payment with no penalty. Cancellation charges started on the day final payment was due and increased as the date of sailing came closer, to where if passengers canceled within 7 days of sailing the cancellation penalties would be as much as was paid for the booking. Now, that 100% penalty time is happening farther out from sailing, giving the cruise line more time to sell that cabin to someone else and further discouraging passengers from cancelling.

A good example of what the airlines are talking about can be found in new cruise fare options aimed at reducing those cabins that have been taken out of the available inventory but are not really sold yet.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Early Saver Fare is a good example.

In world of seemingly unlimited deals and offers with pricing all over the board, Carnival guarantees the Early Saver Fare to be the lowest advertised fare and reduces the price if a legitimate lower price is found.

Simple.

In return, the buyer agrees that the deposit is totally non-refundable, few changes can be made to a booking without incurring a $50 per change administrative fee, and standard cancellation penalties apply, much like reduced fare airline tickets were before the disclosure rules set in.

Airlines contend that they are being singled out as other travel products including hotel rooms and cruise vacations that commonly advertise tax-off pricing and are not affected by the rule. They are correct on that point.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood does not agree though, calling the regulations common sense in his own return attack.

“This is just another example of the disrespect with which too many airlines treat their passengers,” he said reports the Chicago Tribune.

On the other hand, if how discount air carriers do business keeps them in the air, at low prices, should we complain? Who really ends up losing here?


Bankruptcy for American Airlines


Flickr photo by redlegsfan21

Airlines have best quarter ever … thanks baggage fees!

Airlines have best quarter thanks to baggage feesEvery time you pay to check an extra bag you’re making someone’s life better. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation reveals that the third quarter of 2010 was the most profitable for the U.S. airline industry since the department began keeping score in 2002. The industry’s operating profit margin hit 10.5 percent in aggregate. Low-cost carriers, as a class, had an operating profit margin of 11 percent, its best performance since hitting 11.2 percent in the third quarter of 2006.

How did the airline industry pull this off? Recovering economic conditions helped, of course, but so did the stuff that passengers have gotten comfortable complaining about. More than $900 million in third-quarter revenue came from baggage fees, with another $590 million from reservation change fees. Then, there was another $646 million in ancillary fees. It all adds up to more than $2 billion for a single quarter.

So, while we’re all complaining about these extra fees, it looks like many of us are paying them, too.Spirit picks up the highest percentage of its revenue from ancillary fees at 26.9 percent, up from 24.2 percent in the second quarter of 2010 and 20.6 percent in the third quarter of 2009. Allegiant was next at 9.7 percent. Delta and US Airways derived 7.7 percent of their revenues from ancillary fees, with Southwest at 6.7 percent.

Of course, the money isn’t just going into the pockets of airline employees and executives. The six network airlines spent 25 percent of their operating expenses in the third quarter on fuel. United Airlines spent the most on fuel among network carriers – 25.7 percent of total revenue – with Allegiant leading low-cost carriers at 44.1 percent.

Before you feel too sorry for airlines when it comes to fuel costs, remember those profits. Four network airlines had double-digit operating margins, along with four low-cost carriers.

[photo by Tracy O via Flickr]