The department of transportation has fined American Eagle Airlines $900,000 for recent delays on the tarmac exceeding three hours. Didn’t I read somewhere that the airlines have been deregulated? Are the fines a deterrent to delays or a revenue enhancement for the government? I doubt very seriously if any airline purposely plans to have one of its airplanes sitting on the ground for three hours. Airborne utilization is the only way an airplane can be profitable and most airlines probably need that number to be at least 10 hours a day to stay in business.
When an airplane is delayed, it not only loses money on that particular flight, but also on the next flight it was scheduled to fly. The delay dominoes throughout the entire schedule and increases cost at every level in addition to destroying customer service. Does Ray LaHood at DOT think that is the airline’s plan? Far be it from me to make excuses for airline management or their customer service record, however my criticism is of their policies on a normal day. When a nor’easter blows in and de-icing is in progress and ATC increases spacing to ten or twenty miles in trail or worse yet the weather is below landing minimums, I have to cut them a little slack.
Let’s face the fact that they have to land every flight or else let it run out of fuel and crash. Given the choice… With all the extra flights on the ground, there simply are not enough gates to park them. Someone is going to be odd man out and stranded on the ramp. The airline has no control over ATC and weather delays and they have no control over the number of gates at a given airport. If our friend Ray has a solution, it would be a good time to share it with the industry. Perhaps he could run down to JFK approach control and enlighten them on how to run the system more efficiently. Or possibly he could influence the airport authority to build more gates. Here’s an idea; deregulate somebody and then impose some new regulations along with hefty fines for not complying.
I’m sure Mr. LaHood is feeling some pressure from irate airline passengers and the voters who employ his boss, but if he thinks that’s uncomfortable, he should go sit at a radar scope for a couple of hours during a snow storm or perch himself in the left seat of an airliner with 300 people following him around. Imposing a $900,000 fine might ease the pressure at DOT, but it’s not a life or death decision.
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