Passenger Bill of Rights

Posted on 12. Apr, 2007 by in Featured

Well it has started, ready, shoot, aim! Lead by that well known operational specialist and all around genius Senator Barbara Boxer D/CA. You remember Ms. Boxer; she’s the Senator who wanted more women in the military to “Lower the testosterone level”. We all know you don’t want a military with too many tough, mean men in it. Any way she has left behind her military expertise and moved on to the airline industry. After all she has flown many times so no doubt she is an expert on all operational aspects of the industry.

A little back round: the good Senator is leading the charge to in effect re-regulate the industry, at least in part. She might want to talk to her senior leader Senator Ted Kennedy since he sponsored the original legislation (1978) to deregulate the industry. But I digress. Lets look at the justification; passengers every where are being stranded by mean old airlines that hold them captive. It happens so often that it is a national crisis requiring the Senate to engage debate on this catastrophe even when the country is at war. To justify their call for action the re-regulators point to the disaster in Detroit that stranded thousands of passengers on Northwest Airlines aircraft for hours. One little problem; IT HAPPENED ALMOST EIGHT YEARS AGO! That’s correct Senator Boxer wants to initiate an operational disaster for an event that is eight years old.

That’s not to say some isolated events don’t happen they do. They all have two things in common, SEVERE weather (hardly something that can be controlled by an airline) and rare occurrence. Check the DOT statistics.

The law of unforeseen consequences will soon be invoked if this short sighted “fix” gains traction. As I have stated before, if anyone has the delusion that this will fix weather related delays they are grossly mistaken. In fact, I guarantee it will make them worse. Once an aircraft is off the gate a crew can continue a flight if the original plan complies with crew rest. However if they return to the gate then the clock restarts. So if you have waited in line to get out of a snow bound airport and you are next in line for deicing and suddenly pass the arbitrary “Boxer timeline” a single passenger can cancel that flight. How you ask? By invoking the passenger bill of rights the Captain will be required by federal law to try to return to the gate. I say try, because no doubt other flights have passed the arbitrary timeline. Your flight now competes with their flight for a gate. For example 200 planes for 100 gates, you guessed it, you are now in line for a gate. You finally get to a gate the crew goes illegal and the flight gets cancelled. The aircraft now stays on the gate awaiting a maintenance crew to move it to the ramp, preventing the gate from being cleared for the flights still awaiting a gate. The snow ball gets bigger and bigger as it picks up speed.

The result is you as the passenger get to wait longer for a flight that gets cancelled. The fun is not over, why? Because now you and thousands of other passengers are stranded, even if the weather goes away the next day. The announced load factors for most of the nation’s airlines set records again for March. In short all flights are full, thus you can’t get out because you go on the standby list, your flight went away. You are now in a line to get another ticket to anywhere, it could take days to get out. For a clear example look what happened last Christmas in Denver when the airport completely shut down. That is the effect just a handful of passengers will have once empowered by Ms. Boxer. Most often justified by an event that happened in 1999.

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