American Airlines Flights Snarled By System Outage And Airport Shutdowns

It’s a bad day to be flying with massive closures and flight delays across the country due to a series of technical problems and security breaches.

First up, American Airlines announced that all of its flights would be grounded until at least 5 p.m. CT. An FAA spokesperson said the system-wide outage is the result of computer problems. The airline, which has been besieged by complaints via twitter, says it’s working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile in New York, part of LaGuardia Airport has been evacuated after a suspicious package was found in the central terminal building. According to Bloomberg, emergency services and the city’s bomb squad are on the scene but there are no further details regarding the incident at this point.

And finally in Boston – where security has been tight ever since yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon – an aircraft is under investigation. US Airways Flight 1716 has been stopped at Boston Logan Airport because of security concerns, although the exact nature of the threat is unclear.

All of this adds up to gridlock across the nation, with hundreds of flights grounded and passengers delayed, stranded, stuck on planes or unable to make flight reservations. The series of airline troubles come at a bad time for a country already on edge following yesterday’s tragedy on the east coast.

Update: 4:04 ET: NBC News reports that a suspicious package at Dallas Fort Worth has been investigated and determined to be a small tire.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Simon_sees]

Fees Waived, Heightened Security At Boston Airport After Bombings

The world was shocked and saddened to hear about the Boston Marathon bombings yesterday, but what does it mean for people flying in and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport? Two things: flexible rebooking schedules and increased screenings.

USA Today is reporting
several carriers have instituted flexible rebooking policies for those scheduled to pass through Boston. American, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, United and US Airways have all instituted exceptions, most of which cover customers flying through Boston between Monday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 17. Although exact rules vary by airline, the waivers generally allow fliers to make a change to their itinerary without paying the customary fees or resulting fare differences.

Thomas Glynn, CEO of the Massport agency that operates the airport, told the news outlet there is also heightened security on surrounding roadways, on the airfield and in terminals – which means travelers should plan for longer security lines at the airport. According to ABC News, FlightAwaredelays reported 30 to 45 minute delays on Boston departures Tuesday morning.

[Photo credit: Joseph Williams / Wikimedia Commons]

Airport Toys With New Idea To Reduce Parking Problems

airport parkingAt Boston’s Logan International, airport parking is a problem. Laws prevent building more parking facilities. To discourage overflow at existing lots, parking fees were raised sky high. Still, the demand is there and something had to be done about it.

“Logan has tried various ways to curb parking demand and wean passengers from driving to the airport,” said David Mackey of Massport, the state agency that operates the airport, reports MSNBC.

In March, transport officials tried raising airport parking fees to an all-time high of $27 per day while cutting fees to $7 a day at suburban lots that provide direct bus service to the airport. That had little effect.

Building more parking is not an option; the airport is barred from building new parking garages by environmental laws. Still, annual passenger traffic has risen 15.1 million in 1980 to 28.9 million last year and something had to be done.In a three-month pilot program that starts Wednesday, Boston Logan will become the first major airport in the United States to offer free transportation to and from downtown. It is an effort to cut cars both on the road and in parking lots at the fourth-busiest passenger hub in the Northeast.

“We don’t know of any other place where you can travel for free on the transit system coming from the airport to downtown,” said Virginia Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association.

During the pilot program, the city will waive the $2 fare on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Silver Line buses that take passengers from the airport to South Station in central Boston.

That’s good news for everyone really; compared with private vehicles, public transportation produces on average 95 percent less carbon monoxide per passenger mile.

Alternatives to Driving


[Flickr photo by by carrotmadman6]

Wi-Fi usage at Boston’s Logan Airport jumps 412% after going free

logan airport wi-fiIf there ever was an arguement for the positive effects of free airport Wi-Fi, this is it. The Massachusetts Port Authority Board says the number of passengers using its free wireless service to access the Internet at Boston’s Logan International Airport jumped by 412% last year. More than 1.4 million sessions were logged on its Wi-Fi network in 2010, compared with just over 349,300 in 2009.

That represents more than half of the more than 2.2 million sessions since Wi-Fi was first available at the airport in June 2004.

The free system was unveiled in January 2010 and is supported by advertising that users must view before accessing the Internet.

Having benefitted from Logan’s free Wi-Fi on numerous occassions, we can only hope that this is a movement other airports consider.

The arguement from a traveler’s perspective is simple – free Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere else … so why should we pay for it at airports? Anything that makes our air travel experience more pleasurable is something we’ll continue to champion.

[Flickr via Gurretto]

Airline fee backfires: skycaps win in Massachusetts court

When American Airlines started to charge a $2 fee for curbside baggage check-in, the skycaps lost their tips. Passengers were accustomed to paying $2 or so, it seems, and weren’t going to amp up the cash flow just because the money was going into a different pocket. So, nine Logan Airport skycaps – current and former – just came into $325,000, thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled based on a law intended to protect wages and tips.

American Airlines tried to get by on a technicality, saying eight of the nine skycaps were subcontractors (working for G2 Secure Staff) and thus weren’t protected. The court disagreed, favoring broader protection. But, it isn’t over yet. American Airlines, according to a report in USA Today, is evaluating “all of its legal options.”