DOT has just guaranteed absolute bedlam for future weather events

Posted on 22. Dec, 2009 by in Airlines, Blog

The Department of Transportation has just guaranteed absolute bedlam for all future weather events.  They passed a rule requiring airlines to supply food after two hours, and allow passengers off an aircraft after three, for any delay.  If they don’t, a $27,500 fine per passenger can result.  Sounds reasonable; unless you know anything at all about how the airline industry works.

“I don’t know what can be more disruptive to people than to be stuck sitting on a plane five, six, seven hours with no explanation,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a briefing.

Snow and or ice falling might explain it, I’m just saying.  I also know what could be more disruptive; how about not getting to your destination at all!  All those years as an Educator and Congressman obviously prepared Mr. LaHood to lead the largest transportation system in the world.

Here is how it will go: A snow storm sweeps into LaGuardia, O’Hara, Denver or DFW; a line forms for deicing and takeoff.  As the wait hits 3 hours all it will take is a single passenger to demand to get off.  At best that will cause the aircraft to come out of the line and go back to a gate.  This will also require a gate to be available, not likely.  And it will also mean back into the deicing line and then back into the take off line (at the end); for the rest of the passengers it will mean doubling their sit time or more likely, the flight will cancel.  Worst case scenario the entire field will shut down as aircraft jockey to let the one passenger get off one aircraft.  Holdover times on de-icing fluid will expire; crew times will run out, because if you return to the gate you have to refigure crew rest.  In short absolute bedlam; remember it is a DOT rule so the airport will have to comply.

And the discount carriers?  They will be required to supply food after 2 hour delays.  They don’t cater, now what?  Simple, after two hours they will cancel.  If there is a cloud in the sky at any major airport in the future think twice about going; all it will take to cancel your flight is a single disgruntled passenger.  Now imagine at least one passenger on each aircraft; gridlock.

Here is an idea:  a very simple solution; if a delay is expected just have the airlines announce a long sit in line will be likely.  If you don’t want to sit over 3 hours then please don’t board the aircraft.  That way the rest of the thousands of people can be on their way.

No Responses to “DOT has just guaranteed absolute bedlam for future weather events”

  1. Rick 24 December 2009 at 13:40 #

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m going to throw a SWAG here that there will be some thought given to the possibility of a vehicle fleet on site at airports that can address these issues while aircraft are in a departure or de-ice line. If I was an airport manager, I’d be giving some hard thought to a vehicle that can travel outside of the taxiway (rough terrain capability), and still reach an aircraft with MRE food service and in-vehicle toilet facilities. Those gigantic buses at Dulles come to mind. Just a wild thought, but that’s a lot cheaper and more efficient than taking a plane out of line and going back to a gate for a potential cancellation. We’ll see how this plays out. I’m not a futurist…just trying to think outside of the box.

  2. Chip 25 December 2009 at 09:58 #

    They will need one with a ladder/steps. New aircraft don’t have self contained steps, they need a jet bridge. I agree it would be easier/cheaper. However I suspect the TSA would not like the concept; makes too much sense.

  3. Rick 25 December 2009 at 17:27 #

    Well, I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten stuck parked “in the ballpark” at EWR,or on a side taxiway or ramp anywhere else, and sat there for a few hours waiting for a clearance. A bus that could access that okabe would have come in handy many, many times. I’ve thought about this a million times. It’s a deliverable item…it should be on the table.

  4. Rick 25 December 2009 at 17:28 #

    don’t know how “plane” became “okabe”, but I guess it was a typo.

  5. Chip 26 December 2009 at 10:21 #

    Agreed and an even easier fix is to put some of the burden on the individual. i.e. “All flights will be delayed; if you do not want to sit on the ramp for X amount of hours do not board.”. chip

  6. Rick 26 December 2009 at 20:29 #

    Chip, That is a Hobson’s Choice. With much respect, I don’t think that is a good one. Who would not board the airplane in their zeal to “get there”? Everbody will take a chance “it’ll be o.k.”. IMHO there needs to be practical problem solving on the ground. Ergo, a service vehicle that can access a plane in line, and have onboard MRE food service, and toilet facilities, even if they can only serve 5 or 6 passengers at a time. I really feel a tactical and strategic direction like that needs to be looked at. Kinda like, “pullin’ over on the shoulder” on a highway.

  7. Chip 28 December 2009 at 11:55 #

    I have seen hundreds of aircraft in line at big airports. If one per aircraft wanted to come off it would require a lot of trucks. And if ten or twenty wanted off. It would take a bunch of buses. Also don’t forget, a lot of the aircraft out there don’t have steps. So you would have to have trucks with steps. AND it is going to be snowing/icing etc. Now you have a bunch of people going down exposed steps in the snow then walking around a taxiway with engines turning. The liability alone would prevent it IMO.

    I’m afraid what we will soon see under the threat of 27K fine per pax (probably more than most airlines make per flight) is mass cancellations. The risk/reward would not be worth it.

    One last thing. All this is for 1/100th of a percent of flights. I came down hard on the crew of the last flight this happened too. They were responsible for the welfare of their passengers. They can blame the company, airport, whatever; but ultimately they failed.

Leave a Reply