Bag too big? Check with Congress

Every carry-on could become a federal case, so to speak. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-IL, has proposed legislation that would cap the size of each carry-on. Right now, airlines are left to their own devices, leading to a bit of confusion for fliers who use several carriers throughout the year. Since a de facto industry standard hasn’t emerged, Lipinski feels it’s a job for the folks in Washington.

Lipinski is quoted in USA Today as saying, “It’s clear if anything is going to be done, it’s going to take an act of Congress to do it.” The airlines aren’t enforcing the restrictions that they’ve enacted, he continues.

As with anything regarding Congress – and, for that matter, airlines – the public is divided. Supporters are glad to see a proposal that would keep oversized bags out of overhead spaces, seeing it as a safety measure or simply an increase in available space (they fill up quickly with large bags). Of course, on any flight, you’ll find people on the other side, passengers who refuse to check luggage and would cram a compact car into the overhead bin if they could.

Available space in the overhead compartments has become a problem recently. With airlines cutting flights in an effort to reduce costs, the remaining flights are becoming more crowded – as are the storage spaces.

The Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, doesn’t see overhead storage spaces as a matter for Congress. Instead, he believes it should be left to the airlines to decide.

On-time airline improvements continue, third month in a row

Airlines in the United States posted an improved on-time performance rate in April relative to the same month the year prior – stretching their streak to three. The 19 largest airlines were on time 79.1 percent of the time in April 2009, compared to 77.7 percent in April 2008. The industry also performed better than it did in March 2009, showing a month-to-month improvement from 78.4 percent. An on-time arrival is defined as being within 15 minutes of the scheduled time … which has already been buffered comfortably by the airlines.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 7.4 percent of April delays resulted from aviation system issues. Late-arriving aircraft caused 6.2 percent, and factors within the airline’s control (e.g., maintenance or crew problems) accounted for 4.8 percent. Extreme weather and security together didn’t even account for 1 percent of delays. The most delayed flight was Northwest Airlines Flight 803 from Atlanta to Honolulu. It was late 97 percent of the time.

The DOT also found that:

  • Cancellation rates improved to 1.5 percent in April 2009 – from 1.7 percent in April 2008 and 2.1 percent in 2009.
  • Nearly 50 flights had taxi-time waits of greater than three hours
  • Mishandled baggage rates improved to 3.79 per 1,000 from 4.99 in April 2008 and 4.12 in March 2009

Customers complained to the DOT 781 times about airline service, compared to 1,112 in April 2008. But, it was up from the 705 the previous month.

So, the airlines are generally posting some positive numbers – Fight 803 notwithstanding. Why? Are we looking at a vast improvement across an entire industry … an industry that clearly can’t afford to invest in doing a better job?

Let’s not go crazy, here.

The airlines are doing a better job because they don’t have to deal with as many people. Fewer asses are occupying seats, which eases the burden of boarding passengers, pushing back on time and keeping track of their luggage. Ironically, success is the path to failure, as selling more seats would give airlines an operational burden they’ve proved they’re ill-equipped to handle.

Ryanair: get in shape, carry your own bags

European object of disdain low-cost carrier Ryanair is always looking for ways to save a few bucks. From pay-to-piss to the fat tax, the airline has put forth a stream of ideas that really haven’t gotten off the ground. Well, CEO Michael O’Leary has a new one to add to the list: mandatory luggage self-service.

Under this new model, passengers would carry their bags through airport security and drop them at the steps at the bottom of the plane. Turnaround times remain a concern – as they are for the fat tax. Let’s be realistic: the only people in the airport more likely to screw something up than baggage handlers are the passengers themselves.

If you spend 15 minutes staring at the menu at Sbarro and can’t figure the damned thing out, you probably shouldn’t be trusted to carry your own bags.

JetBlue ramp worker nods off – wakes up in Boston in cargo hold

You just know the economy is in the crapper, when even airline workers have to become stowaways on their own flights.

Last week, a 21 year old JetBlue baggage handler dozed off on the job, which is something I probably do once or twice a week- except when I do it, I wake up with QWERTY key prints on my face.

When this guy woke up, he had traveled from JFK to Boston airport.

When ramp workers opened the cargo hatch in Boston, they initially thought they had discovered a stowaway, but quickly realized he was one of their colleagues.

The guy is lucky that the baggage hold is pressurized nowadays, and that the flight was only 37 minutes. Imagine being trapped in a cold cargo hold for a transatlantic flight without any $5 headphones or the option to purchase a $9 snack box!

Investigators are looking into how the incident happened, and will probably want to know why none of his co-workers noticed he went missing.

Airport baggage thief admits to stealing over 600 bags

Yikes. Turns out not all baggage thieves are sophisticated criminals.

Dallas police just arrested 39 year old Patrick Brown who was stealing up to 3 bags a day from Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Tulsa airports.

He’d wait at the carousel, then when bags circled once or twice, he’d snag them and leave the airport.

In total, he stole over 400 bags from DFW, 200 from Houston and an unknown number from Tulsa. Brown stored the bags in a storage unit, and sold them at a local Dallas flea market.

A buyer at the flea market discovered a name tag in the luggage, contacted the rightful owner, and the police got involved. So, if you passed through any of those airports, and you thought your bags never made it to the carousel, you may want to contact Dallas police.