Tuesday, September 30, 2014
|As you might have heard, Chicago O’Hare, the busiest airport in the world, was brought
to a halt Friday along with Midway Airport, due to an act of employee sabotage at a
control center. Problems were felt at airports from coast to coast.
As of Monday, more than 3,500 flights in total had been cancelled, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Workers will need two weeks to restore operations at the air traffic control center, authorities said on Sunday.
People are asking: What kind of world-class system do we have where just one person can shutdown flights all over the country, and it takes weeks to fix?
To get a sense of the misery that day, someone filmed the customer service line to
rebook for one airline at one terminal in O’Hare.
Lined up for all eternity at Chicago O’Hare – 9/26/2014
The clip doesn’t include all the passengers attempting to rebook online or over the phone, or who just gave up and went back home or to a hotel.
Where’s The Workable Backup Plan?
With the airline industry overselling flights already, there is zero slack in the system.
When unanticipated events occur, airline operations begin to unravel.
Most planes now fly completely full. While this has helped airlines increase profitability, the consequence of inflexible
operations with little margin for error means when anything goes wrong it takes days
to get it all back on track.
|A screen shot from FlightAware shows airline traffic at 9:20 a.m. Friday over the United States, with a “hole” over the region around Chicago, after hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s two main airports. (FlightAware, The Associated Press)
From charging for bags, to eliminating meals, to insufficient seat space, to always full planes, and long waits to recover from delays, the airline industry has set up an unacceptable situation.
“It shows the need for live testing of emergency plans by airlines, airports and
air-traffic control, said FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson. “Chicago is a choke
point and when disrupted the effects are national,” he said.
Should We Be Checking All FAA Facilities?
This event demonstrated the vulnerability of our system. Considering the government
has poured billions into Homeland Secuirty, it shows some FAA facilities are unprepared
for an unplanned shutdown or direct attack.
Should contractors at air-traffic control acilities be banned?
Aircraft monitoring is a critical operation and should not be compromised by contract maintenance employees. Air traffic controllers are highly screened, take annual
psychiatric and medical evaluations.
Back in 1995, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure recommended
geographically separated redundant systems for FAA
control centers, in response to compter outtages at the same Aurora, IL air-traffic
In 1998, the first paragraph of a GAO investigation stated
: “Failure to adequately
protect these systems, as well as the facilities that house them, could cause nationwide disruption of air traffic or even loss of life due to collisions.”
In the 16 years since that report was issued, the FAA has not developed a single site
back-up control center that could be quickly activated in the event a saboteur, or
terrorists, bring a control facility down.
Instead, the plan is to add work to, at times, already over-burdened air traffic control facilities, reports Chicago’s ABC7 news.
FlyersRights’ proposed Passenger Bill of Rights
calls for airlines to maintain a ready
reserve of equipment and flight crews in times of air transport intruption due to stormy weather, airport closures, severe congestion and airport closures.
EU Skies Alive With The Sound Of Small Talk
New European safety rules will soon allow the use of all portable electronics, including
cell phones, at any time during flights.
Phones in flight. (Photo, textually.org)
Under the guidelines issued last week by the European Aviation Safety Agency, European airlines can allow passengers to use electronics during the entire flight, without putting them into “airplane mode.”
It will be up to the airlines to figure out how they will implement the new rules. In most European trains, for example, there are “silent” cars where talking on phones is prohibited but it seems unlikely a scheme like that would work on anything but the largest jets.
EASA, which is based in Cologne, Germany, said the new rules are effective immediately and apply to any airplane operated by a European-based carrier, no matter where
the flight originates.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last year lifted restrictions on personal
electronic devices during takeoffs and landings – but not cellphone calls, which
fall under the Federal Communications Commission.
Taking inflation into account, today’s air fares are still lower in most cases than 30 or 40 years ago, when airline fares were highly regulated. Today’s tighter seating has helped minimize fare increases in response to the massive increase in fuel prices over the past few years.
Dear VT, you can’t possibly be referring to the USA when you say “airfares have gone down.” That is very wrong. Both fares AND fees have dramatically increased in recent years.
For one thing, an airline ticket today does not get you the same things it used to.
Add in the price of meal plus checked bags and the price decline disappears. And,
seats have shrunk, you have much less leg room, seat width and cushioning. Also,
you’re not going to have an empty seat next to you.
So it’s an apples and oranges comparison to look at flights from decades ago and now.
It’s simply not the same product.
A lot of the high ticket prices in the 70s and 80s were due to the Civil Aeronautics Board, that was thoroughly captured by the entrenched interests of incumbent airlines.
The CAB limited competition, and ensured that prices stayed high enough for airlines to
be profitable. With profits essentially guaranteed.
Also, airport security has become far more odious, you have to spend more time at the airport, you cannot bring big toiletries or your own drinks, and flights are generally
longer as planes fly more slowly to save fuel.
Such intangibles are difficult to handicap, but, to compare the price of a product over
time, you do need to make sure it’s the same product.
Probably a way to look at this would be to compare the price of first class tickets, as
first class still comes with food and free bag check, just as it used to.
Airline prices did drop
around 2009-2010 because of the economic recession, but have been increasing since then. In addition, airlines have been cutting capacity which
removes availability of the cheapest seats. That makes a big difference to many leisure travelers.
The situation is, of course, different overseas. Europe and Asia have very aggressive
low cost carriers.
In the USA, these airlines are much, much smaller, and the deals are not usually very compelling for ‘wanna-get-away’ travel.
We Need an App Developer
The FlyersRights.org app needs a new programmer/developer registered with Apple, where you can assume management of the account for FlyersRights.
It’s a very simple tab control app with html content. It will need to be available on the Apple app store as well as the Google Play site, so customers can capture on both Apple and Android devices.
Our previous developer will be happy to forward all the source code to the new developer.
You’ll likely be able to add more bells and whistles which were beyond our previous developer’s capabilities.
Getting on a Plane? Put This Number in Your Phone:
The FlyersRights HOTLINE!
FlyersRights.org depends on your
Kate Hanni, founder
with Paul Hudson, President