Airline Chaos – It’s the Customer … to Some Degree Dummy

By Robert Mark on January 3rd, 2008

Did you see the note last week from the United branch of the Air Line Pilots Association? United pilots didn’t want to take the heat for the huge round of delays and flight cancellations that good old UAL dropped on passengers around the system when an ugly ice storm broke the back of the UAL schedule again.Big Airlines

Nor should the pilots have taken the blame.

United ran short of pilots simply because it was that time of the month … the end … when pilots can easily exceed their FAA allotted flight times. Airline pilots normally can fly no more than 100 hours in any given month. The total amount they fly is also related to their actual time on duty, such as sitting around at the gate when the flight can’t depart for some reason.

When you ask pilots to pick up as much extra flying as possible early in the month – as United and other carriers have – it leaves little extra time for them to fly near the end of the month. Mix in a little bad weather and it’s a recipe for delays and more delays.

United decide to go back to square one at some point and simply cancel many holiday flights in order to get crews to the right place for future trips, stranding thousands of passengers in the process.

Sure we can blame United management at United for hiring executives with little common sense when it comes to taking care of the people who provide their bread and butter … both employees and customers. These would be the same executives who voted shareholders a nice dividend last month knowing that any cough in the system from too few employees to carry out the work would easily give the airline another black eye.

We’ve heard that bad management argument before … many times.

We need to place part of the blame for the current airline system squarely where it belongs … on the customer.

In the past decade, Americans have become the laughing stock of the world for more reasons than I can relate in one post here. But we’re only looking at the airlines right now. Let’s just say that we’ve set our sights as customers so low on the level of service we are willing to accept that we almost dare the airlines to see if they can possibly make it any worse.

Worst of all, we do little to change the status quo.

As a kid who grew up in the 60’s when people marched by the thousands on Washington for practically anything, I cringe when I listen to airline passengers turn their hands up saying, “Well … what can we do?”

You can do quite a bit actually.

Remember the piece I posted on Kate Hanni and the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights a few weeks back?

Well, she’s at it again.

Yesterday, Hanni and another stranded passenger – Catherine Ray – filed a potential class-action lawsuit against American Airlines after being kept locked up aboard their aircraft on the ground in Austin for nearly 10 hours last winter.

OK, perhaps Hanni’s view that they were imprisoned against their will might raise a few eyebrows, but I admire the fact that there are now some 21,410 people who are mad as hell as Kate and Catherine about the way the airlines treat their customers.

Those are the people who signed the coalition’s petition supporting an airline passenger bill of rights.

What we need are a lot more airline passengers who realize they are just as much a part of the problem as the cure and that taking action is the only solution.

Have you signed the petition? If not, tell me why?

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