The remnants of deadly Hurricane Harvey are finally moving out – giving the Houston area some relief by late Wednesday.

On the airline end, local support staff have been taking care of stranded passengers and crew.

Volunteer teams have been flying in and out to relieve colleagues – and ground crews, operation teams and HQ staff have been running airlift flights out.

Furthermore, the hard-working men and women at Houston Center and Houston TRACON have kept the facilities open. Many air traffic controllers have worked in excess of 48 straight hours.

They’ve stuck it out to handle busy overflight traffic and assist in the search and rescue efforts.

But with Houston’s two airports under water, flyers nationwide will feel the effects of Harvey.

The inter-relatedness of modern American life is on display when what seemingly is a localized natural disaster in southeast Texas but can disrupt travel nationwide, and even globally.

Cancellations at Southwest and United Airlines are being noted since they have large transportation hubs in Houston. Tens of thousands of airline customers and businesses are being impacted by the storm.

In aviation, what happens in Houston does not stay in Houston. United’s hub at Bush Intercontinental Airport typically operates 483 flights day that carry about 42,300 people a day. Southwest, meanwhile, operates 152 flights a day from Houston Hobby Airport that carry about 20,000 people a day. Bush Intercontinental is the second-largest of United’s seven hubs, ranking behind only its Chicago O’Hare International Airport hub. Hobby Airport, one of the three original Texas airports Southwest served when it launched business in 1971, still ranks as seventh-busiest of the 49 airports Southwest serves.

So, when your United flight from Nashville to Chicago gets canceled today or tomorrow, or when your Southwest flight from Phoenix to Baltimore doesn’t fly, you too are a victim of the flooding in Houston.

Airlift – “Rescue flights” evacuated travelers stranded in Houston airports

Southwest and United Airlines used emergency evacuation flights to help hundreds of people stranded at Houston’s Hobby and Bush airports. Special transit flights were arranged by the airlines, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Houston Airport System after passengers became trapped when the FAA closed the airports, including surrounding roads.
Five Southwest Boeing 737s flew out of the flooded airport on Sunday to evacuate the airline’s remaining customers from the airport. The flights took all of the passengers to Love Field in Dallas.
The FAA gave the airlines permission to operate in and out of closed Houston airports – which will remain out of service until at least noon August 30.
Without working lights on the runway, the rescue flights had to work quick before the sun set in Houston on Sunday.

Spirit Airlines was also among the airlines assisting with evacuation efforts, operating a Houston-Dallas flight on Monday and flying stranded passengers out for free, including those originally not ticketed on Spirit.

The airline flew two empty planes into Houston on Monday from Fort Lauderdale and left the city with 189 people, only ten of which were Spirit customers.

From Houston, Spirit dropped the travelers off in Chicago and Detroit, where they could seek shelter or rebook flights. Paul Berry, a spokesman for Spirit, said more planes may be sent to Houston upon request.

We give credit to Spirit for transportig these distressed passengers – even if they weren’t booked with them.

Airlines Announce Waiver for Travelers Affected by Harvey 

United Airlines’ Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey
United Airlines has called off its operations at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH), and cancelled flights to and from Houston until noon (CST) on Thursday, August 31. The suspension of United Airlines’ operations at Houston may continue beyond August 31 if required. United flights to and from other cities in and around Texas may be delayed or affected due to Hurricane Harvey.
United Airlines announced to offer a travel waiver from August 25 to September 5, 2017 for the flights to, from and through the cities affected by Hurricane Harvey, including Austin (TX), Alexandria (LA), Baton Rouge (LA), Brownsville (TX), College Station (TX), Corpus Christi (TX), Harlingen (TX), Houston (TX), Lake Charles (LA), Lafayette (LA), Laredo (TX), McAllen (TX), New Orleans (LA), San Antonio (TX) and Shreveport (LA).
United Airlines will waive its change fee and fare difference (if there is any) for one-time change of date or time in the itineraries of the flights booked on or before August 25, 2017 for travel between August 25 and September 20, 2017 if the travel cabins (fare class), the origin cities and the arrival cities are the same as originally ticketed.
United Airlines will waive only its change fee, not fare difference (if there is any) for rescheduling travel (on request) for departure after September 20, 2017 and modifying origin or arrival city in the booked itineraries with travel dates until September 5. Rescheduled tickets must be used within one year from the date of issuing the original tickets.
Delta Airlines’ Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey 
In response to the impact of Hurricane Harvey on air travel, Delta Airlines has come up with a waiver for those looking to cancel their travel. Those having Delta flight tickets for travel dated between August 25 and September 7, 2017 are entitled to a refund in the event of flight cancellation or flight delay by 90 minutes or more. You can claim a refund if a segment (s) of your ticket remains unused by September 7, 2017.
Delta Airlines, too, will entertain requests for one-time change of date or time in the booked tickets for departure by or on September 20, 2017, without any fee. You are eligible for refund or change fee waiver only if you travel on Delta flights to, from, or through the cities affected by Hurricane Harvey, not beyond September 20, 2017. The cities are Austin (TX, AUS), Alexandria (LA, AEX), Baton Rouge (LA, BTR), Houston (TX, HOU, IAH), San Antonio (TX, SAT), Shreveport (LA, SHV), New Orleans (LA, MSY), and Lafayette (LA, LFT).
Delta Airlines’ change of date fee will be waived for rescheduling travel beyond September 2017, but fare difference between the original ticket and the rescheduled ticket may apply. You must complete the travel before the ticket expires (within one year from the date when the origin ticket was issued). You may have to pay fare difference for modifying your itinerary (origin or destination city change) even for traveling on or before September 9, 2017.
If your Delta Airlines flight ticket cannot be rescheduled within the above-mentioned guidelines, you can cancel it and book a new ticket against the unused value of the canceled ticket. Delta Airlines’ change fee and fare difference will apply in this case.
American Airlines’ Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey
Those traveling to, from, or through Alexandria, Austin, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Brownsville, College Station, Corpus Christi, Houston (HOU and IAH), Laredo, Lake Charles, Lafayette, McAllen, New Orleans, Shreveport and San Antonio may avail American Airlines’ change fee waiver for rescheduling their travel in the event of Hurricane Harvey.
American Airlines’ change fee waiver is available for rescheduling travel booked on or before August 28, 2017 for traveling on or before September 7, 2017 given the disruption of commercial air connectivity in South Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. American Airlines flight tickets may be rescheduled for traveling not beyond September 20, 2017 and without changing the origin or destination city.
If you booked American Airlines tickets on or before August 23, 2017 for traveling by August 31, 2017, you may request to reschedule the ticket for traveling by September 13, 2017 without paying the airline’s change of date fee. If you wish to change the travel class or the departure city or the arrival city, fare difference may apply.
Lufthansa’s Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey
Daily Lufthansa flights to and from Houston, Texas have been cancelled until August 31, 2017 due to the severe weather inclemency caused by Hurricane Harvey. Lufthansa has offered to rebook the cancelled flights without any fee.
Virgin Atlantic’s Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey
Those who booked Virgin Atlantic Airways flights to, from, or through Houston (HOU and IAH), San Antonio (SAT), and Austin (AUS) for traveling between August 25 and September 7, 2017 may cancel their tickets and rebook flights for traveling on or before September 20, 2017 without paying the airline’s cancellation penalty. You can call Virgin Atlantic Airways’ flight disruption service line: 0344 209 8711 in the UK or 1 800 862 8621 in the US.
Rebooking of flights is subject to availability of seats in the same travel class for traveling on or before September 20, 2017.
British Airways’ Travel Alerts for Hurricane Harvey
British Airways flights to and from Houston (TX), Austin (TX), and New Orleans (LA) have been called off until August 30, 2017. Given the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey in South Texas, British Airways has announced to rebook travel (on request) for its customers up to September 20, 2017.
(Courtesy: Indian Eagle Travel)

An Open Letter To Airline CEOs

Re Air Traffic Control Privatization, A Passenger Sucker Punch?

As you know, Congress is expected to vote in September on legislation to transfer control of the nation’s skies from the FAA to a private corporation with the power to tax passengers without Congress.

You have argued that this would make air travel better by reducing delays and reducing costs through efficiency and modernization of air traffic control. Congressional hearings, however, have revealed that you have not invested in the equipment needed for modern GPS based air traffic control, with only 6% of the US airliner fleet equipped. And you have asked the FAA for a delay to 2025 from the present 2020 deadline.

You have also reportedly not invested in upgrading your computer systems, or needed reserves of equipment and personnel, causing massive outages and frequent multiple day delays for passengers. Indeed, DOT data say you are directly responsible for 54% of delays vs 12% attributable to air traffic control.

As you know, the pending legislation, in order to gain support of other aviation groups, has promised that general aviation and corporate jets will not have to pay anything for air traffic control more than the current fuel tax. ATC unions will be protected, and 7 figure executive salaries are contemplated.

Even so, most large general aviation and corporate jet groups still oppose the legislation as do all consumer groups (i.e. Consumers Union, the National Consumers League, Public Citizen, and, the only exceptions being a travel industry funded group called Travelers United and an airline industry front group called Citizens for On Time Flights), most unions, local governments and non-hub airports.

So the question becomes, who is going to pay the billions required? As air traffic control taxes are phased out and fees take their place, won’t passengers get hit with bill while airlines get a windfall?

Are passengers going to be sucker punched with enormous fee increases so airlines and others can avoid capital investments and protect their record breaking 19% profit margins?
Furthermore, how do you see privatization reducing concentration of flights at major hub airports and away from medium to smaller size cities? There was a 25% reduction in flights to non-hub city flights over the past decade.  How will privatization reduce congestion? Or will airline control of air traffic control accelerate these trends?
The fact that passengers would have absolutely NO representation on the board of this new monopoly corporation speaks volumes about the priorities and true intention of this proposal.
We await your prompt answers to these important public policy questions.


Paul Hudson

1440 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Cc President Donald J. Trump
House Speaker Paul Ryan
Members of Congress