Congress to end long flight delays

The business travel community is siding with Congress on a new law that would address flight delays on the tarmac. The Business Travel Coalition, which represents the travel departments of 300 companies, is announcing today that it supports a new law that would give passengers some elbow room when a plane’s stuck on the ground.

If a plane is delayed for three hours or more on the tarmac, according to the bill, airlines would have to let the passengers get off the planes. This would provide welcome relief in among the gloomiest of travel situations. And, it could work to the airlines’ favor – though they wouldn’t admit it – as it would prevent negative public relations situations due to poor judgment. There have been enough delays to warrant at least the introduction of a bill, so there’s obviously a problem.

The Business Travel Coalition made the decision after surveying 649 corporate travel departments, travel agents and business travelers. More than 90 percent of the corporate travel departments and approximately 80 percent of travel agents and business travelers support the proposed rule. The National Business Traveler Association and American Society of Travel Agents have both come out in favor of the bill.

Since January 2007, USA Today reports that in excess of 200,000 passengers have been stranded on more than 3,000 planes for at least three hours after pushing back from or while waiting to approach a gate. There were 278 flights in this situation in June 2009 alone. While this is still a small portion of total passenger traffic, 200,000 people is a statistic that’s hard to ignore.

The issue of long tarmac delays was triggered recently by a Continental Express fight that was stuck on the ground in Rochester, Minnesota. The Senate has approved a version of the bill with the three-hour rule, while the House of Representatives has passed a less specific version, requiring that airlines submit a plan to the Department of Transportation for letting passengers off in the case of a long delay.

The Air Transportation Association is against the bill, though it calls long delays “unacceptable” (not exactly a hard position to take). The vice president of the ATA, David Castelveter, claims that airlines have contingency plans to deal with these situations and can handle the situations themselves.

According to USA Today, he says, “We continue to believe that a hard-and-fast mandatory rule for deplaning passengers will have substantial unintended consequences, leading to even more inconvenience for passengers and, ultimately, more flight cancellations.” He also explains that airlines have spent more money and invested in new technology to improve the service they provide.

Of course, we see how well that’s worked over the past three years for enough people to comprise a small city. I’m not a big fan of Congressional involvement, but it’s clear the airlines can’t handle this one on their own: they’ve proved it too often.



The flight from hell involves a passenger covered in poop

There have been plenty of stories in the past year involving passengers going berserk and attacking the crew and others on their flight.

But every now and then I read a new one, and just can’t help think “what the hell?”.

Such is the story of a Continental Express flight from Houston to Omaha last week. Halfway during the flight, a middle aged man left the lavatory covered in his own fecal matter.

At that point the poor flight attendant tried to move passengers away from this lunatic and ordered the man to clean himself. Things then got out of control, and the flight attendant ended up on the floor being beaten by the unruly passenger.

Fellow passengers came to the assistance of the flight attendant, and managed to get the poop covered man buckled into a seat and calmed down for the remainder of the flight.

Upon arrival at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, the man was detained, and taken into custody by the care facility in Iowa where he lives. The flight attendant ended up with a black eye, and probably a horribly smelly uniform.

Authorities are investigating whether the mental condition of this passenger should bar him from flying on his own in the future. Personally, I hope he takes a train next time, as I have no need to witness anyone covered in poop, planes are dirty enough as it is.

(Via: WOWT Omaha)

ExpressJet Flies Off On Its Own

You might think they’re new, but you may have already flown them. They’re ExpressJet, the Houston-based regional contract carrier for Continental, often branded Continental Express (since they were spun off of Continental back in 2002).

Following in the footsteps of the now-defunct Independence Air (the former contract carrier that lasted 19 months on its own after losing its United Airlines’ contract), they’re starting service on their own, since Continental’s shifted some of their business over to their other contract carrier, Chautauqua Airlines.

Flying forty-four of the familiar 50-seat Embraer jets, they plan to serve 24 smaller regional airports, avoiding airports where the big airlines have hubs. Look for them in smaller cities like Sacramento, Spokane, Boise, El Paso, Raleigh, San Diego, and others.