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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


On April 30 I was flying between L.A. and Jacksonville. There may be other, less horrible, airlines that fly that route, but I wound up on Delta, the flying garbage can. I guess I should be thankful it takes off and lands. The stewardii insisted we all toast Delta because they came out of bankruptcy that day. I don't drink. And I hate Delta.

Not that Im a big fan of any of the U.S. airlines anymore. I just flew from L.A. to DC to Chicago to L.A. on United and it was generally as bad as Delta. "The overall performance of U.S. airlines worsened in 2006, its third consecutive year of decline, according to the 17th annual Airline Quality Ratings released here Monday. Its performance fell in three of the four categories measured by the study: on-time arrival, involuntary bumping and mishandled luggage. The customer complaint rate was flat."

Hawaiian Air was #1 and JetBlue was #2. All the big airlines stunk. United was #8. American was #10 and Delta was #12. I fly "first class." The so-called first class sections of all three of the big three are not particularly better than JetBlue's economy class. On my United flights last week there were no foot-rests on any of the cramped seats. The staff was unprofessional to the max on each flight, as though they had never gone through any training at all. The food was abysmal and the seating areas filthy. The planes took off and landed on time.

Today's New York Times examines one sordid aspect of the industry in depth: overbooking policies; it doesn't look good.
The summer travel season is under way, and so many planes are expected to be full that, if you are bumped, you could end up waiting days for a seat on another flight to the same destination.

The number of fliers bumped against their will is expected to reach a high for the decade this year.

How could that happen? The industry's "widespread practice of airline overbooking... Airlines, of course, overbook to avoid losing billions of dollars because of empty seats. Inevitably, though, they guess wrong on some flights and too many people arrive at the gate."

Airlines would overbook far more than they do-- they certainly don't give a rat's ass for their passengers-- but fear of passenger anger holds them hold to 6 or 700,000 a year.


The NY Times is reporting today that delays are getting worse this year. Maybe it's just too simple to blame Bush-- although, instinctively-- I do.
The on-time performance of airlines has reached an all-time low, but even the official numbers do not begin to capture the severity of the problem.

That is because these statistics track how late airplanes are, not how late passengers are. The longest delays-- those resulting from missed connections and canceled flights-- involve sitting around for hours or even days in airports and hotels and do not officially get counted. Researchers and consumer advocates have taken notice and urged more accurate reporting.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a study several years ago and found that when missed connections and flight cancellations are factored in, the average wait was two-thirds longer than the official statistic. They also determined that as planes become more crowded — and jets have never been as jammed as they are today-- the delays grow much longer because it becomes harder to find a seat on a later flight.

That finding prompted the M.I.T. researchers to dust off their study, which they are updating now. But with domestic flights running 85 to 90 percent full, meaning that virtually all planes on desirable routes are full, Cynthia Barnhart, an M.I.T. professor who studies transportation systems, has a pretty good idea of what the new research will show when it is completed this fall: “There will be severe increases in delays,” she said.

Very severe-- and longer-- 39% longer than last year, to be precise. Republican anti-union ideological mania has wrecked the air traffic control system and the general anti-union permissiveness of the Bush Regime has made some airline employees... "grumpy." As the Times put it, "after taking big pay cuts and watching airline executives reap some big bonuses, many workers are fed up."

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