I need a little help here from our airline brethren, of whom there are many reading AVweb. I've been parsing news stories about this week's $900,000 fine against American Eagle for keeping passengers shut in airplanes on the ramp for more than three hours. DOT wanted to get the airlines' attention and it sure did.
Unfortunately, it could very well be that hapless airline passengers will be taking it in the shorts as a result. A recent Government Accountability Office report found the imposition of the rule a little over a year ago coincided with an unusual spike in flight cancellations. It other words, rather than strand passengers on the ramp and risk a fine, the airlines are just refusing to fly them at all. It's as if the passengers are being thrown over the side in a spat between the airlines and DOT. At this point, the phrase "customer service" has long since faded into the distance. Passengers dwell in the Village of the Damned.
Call me crazy, but can't the airlines figure this out? For all you pilots and dispatchers, why is that an airline like Eagle would send 15 airplanes into O'Hare knowing full well the gates aren't available and probably won't be for hours? I understand that between weather, flight delays and schedules, this is a complex, dynamic environment. Sometimes, you have to launch airplanes on the come.
But is it utterly unreasonable to expect the airline or the airport to have some means of extracting passengers stuck for hours on end? Are the TSA's onerous regulations a factor? Is it block scheduling? The Jet Blue incident at Bradley last month7 ½ hourswas an especially egregious example. Personally, my record is 2 ½ hours, which I can do standing on my head. Four hours? No thanks.
So what should a passenger reasonably expect here? Educate me.