The Sad State of Air Travel These Days

Yesterday, on the leg back from a hellish journey, I realized that US airlines are now halfway between Portuguese railways of old and the old USSR. And it makes me wonder: what is going on here?
Air travel became a nightmare around 2002.  I thought it was because the airline industry was recovering from a severe blow and restructuring, and it would get better.
I was wrong. I was actually seeing the airline at the best it would be in the next ten years. And every year after it gets worse.

The entire essay, from Sarah Hoyt, is here.

As a very frequent flier, I agree with all of this. In fact, I often refer to America’s “third world airline system.”

What prompted the issues in question was a hailstorm in Denver (Frontier’s hub) that knocked out a quarter of Frontier’s fleet. Companies like AccuWeather can mitigate the effects of these storms saving (literally) tens of millions but that is not the purpose of this post.

Sarah goes on to say,

No, the problem wasn’t hail damage to their planes. Such disasters happen. It’s why they have insurance. It’s what came AFTER that.
Since they cancelled over a dozen planes – at 10:30 am for damage incurred at 2 am – and they have our phone/email to notify us, with perhaps a little more time to react.
BUT not only did they not cancel it till the last minute. Oh, no. They ALSO accepted checked luggage. First the plane was delayed, then finally cancelled.

THIS is what drives us crazy. The airline knew it had a hail storm, why wait until the last possible second to cancel the flight?

Just last week I at was at the infamous Terminal 2 at Chicago (“where the fall of Saigon is reenacted daily” — Joe Brancatelli) flying United Distress, er, Express. I was enjoying myself at dinner, then went to the gate at the appointed time and — no flight crew.  The appointed departure time came and went, (while the flight is listed as “On Time”) and, no flight crew. Turns out they were still in the air. So everyone is standing around, the airline people seem clueless and, well, you know the rest of the story. A seriously delayed flight that is listed as “on time.”

Airlines:  This is 2011. There is a wonderful new business tool called “information technology.” It should not be difficult to match the fact there is no flight crew and post the delay. You’ll find your customers will be much more understanding if you treat them honestly and as adults. Otherwise, to finish quoting Ms. Hoyt,

I will not fly Frontier again if I can help it, and I will never fly anywhere I can drive. Is this the effect airlines intend to have on their customers? Why? How do they think they’ll survive?

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