The Wing Man has been traveling, and suffered a serious computer malfunction this week, preventing him from posting anything here since early Wednesday. I am now caught up on developments in air travel, including seeing that airlines are beginning to acknowledge what I touched on briefly in my Feb. 15 column, just after 10 days of punishing winter storms in the Northeast: The massive airline flight cancellations at that time were a harbinger. The new DOT rules that are to take effect April 29 will impose hefty fines on airlines if they strand passengers for more than three hours on airport ramps and taxiways, and the industry is going to proactively be canceling more and more flights to avoid multi-million-dollar fines. What happened during the storms served as a warmup to what we might see this summer at times of big thunderstorms.
This week, the media is beginning to fill with stories ahead of the April 29 date of airlines warning "we told you so," and already laying plans to trash the rules verbally. The Inquirer's Linda Loyd reported on loud complaints by Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, saying the new rules could backfire, causing more cancellations. He blamed the federal government for airlne delays because it has not modernized the air-traffic control system. Read that story here.
I'm still trying to figure out what air traffic control had to do with the stranding last summer at Rochester, Minn., of 49 people for six hours overnight of a Continental Express flight. That incident has had a lot to do with the DOT's proposed rule, becoming a symbol of airline ineptitude and renewing the charge that airlines have only themselves to blame for the rules because of their apparent inability to deal properly with long delays for more than a decade.