Do you fly on regional airlines – what we used to call the “commuters”? Chances are you do, since these airlines now operate more than 50% of the nation’s commercial flight schedules. So maybe you’ll feel a little safer now.
That’s because a bill funding the FAA to the tune of more than $34 billion has passed the senate (and still must be reconciled with the earlier House-passed bill); it calls for raising the number cockpit training hours for regional carrier pilots (as well as remedial training as needed).
But the centerpiece of the legislation is all about bringing the nation’s antiquated Air Traffic Control system into the modern era with GPS technology (you know, the stuff we’ve had in our phones for years).
How bad is the current ATC system? Pretty bad. According to the AP, bill sponsor Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said even Mongolia is further along than we are. “It’s embarrassing,” he noted. Amen.
The bill could reach the President’s desk for signing by the end of next month.
The strike we told you about yesterday? It’s now underway, and British Airways has canceled more than 1,000 flights. This is a 3-day strike, and please note that another one is set to begin next weekend.
If you are flying with British Airways this weekend or next, I urge you to see the strike information on BA’s website.
The airline is still flying, though on a greatly reduced level. And some services are missing, including full meal service on some long-haul flights – so bring your own food or be sure to make a stop at a café after you pass through security.
Last minute talks have failed, and as things stand now, British Airways cabin crews will begin a 3-day strike starting Saturday, March 20 through Monday, March 22. Another 4-day strike is set for Saturday March 27 through Tuesday, March 30.
BA’s CEO Willie Walsh says he “deeply regrets” the inconvenience to passengers – and reportedly, more than 100,000 of them have bailed out of their flights – but BA says it will continue to fly about 60% of its schedule.
If you’ll be flying British Airways in the next few days, check out their website for further information, now.
Everyone called it a “nightmare” flight – AOL News did, so did TV stations, although HuffPo opted for “flightmare”.
Whatever, it wasn’t pleasant. Yes, Virgin America left LAX on time Saturday, but circled JFK for a couple of hours while waiting for fierce winds to die down. It didn’t happen, so the plane headed to Upstate New York’s Stewart Airport in Newburgh to wait out the weather. That’s when the problems began.
Passengers say they were then kept waiting — on the plane — for seven hours. They were told they could get off, but then they couldn’t get back on again if the weather cleared. Some got off anyway - the rest shared rationed food — which reportedly worked out to “four potato chips and a half cup of water each.”
Eventually, JetBlue stepped forward with a bus to take the passengers on the 80 mile drive to JFK.
Here’s what Virgin America did right: CEO David Cush started calling passengers to personally apologize, promised all a refund, and a $100 credit.
What about that new rule that “airlines-must-let-passengers-out-after-3-hours-on-the-plane”? It doesn’t go into effect until April 29.
If you’re flying in or out of the Northeast today, check out FlightStats or your airline before heading out.
We are seeing “excessive” delays in Boston (excessive = worst), but there are also significant delays at JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, Manchester, New Hampshire and to a lesser extent in Cleveland.
That area of the country got hit hard over the weekend with lashing rainstorms (some with hurricane-strength winds) and there were a lot of power outages – so – just be careful, okay?
If you’re flying with Icelandair, beware of Iceland’s ongoing air traffic control “mini-strikes” – there was one four-hour strike yesterday, and the next is expected tomorrow morning.
There are supposed to be scattered four-hour strikes for the next few weeks – which appear to be creating some scheduling havoc for the national carrier.
I checked with Icelandair’s website, and saw a page of flights followed by the words, “no departures available” or “no arrivals available”. Not much help, huh? But here’s some email and fax contact information and you can find Icelandair phone numbers here.
An insightful story on CNN by Daniel Fahl, who is described as a “captain for a major U.S. airline” – he writes about the expected delays at JFK that I blogged about last week.
“Just like freeways get backed up during rush hour and the holidays,” says Capt. Fahl, “so do the runways and airborne highways that aircraft navigate.”
He added that, with JFK’s main runway out of action for the next few months, the delays will be magnifed – especially because Kennedy is a prime departure/destination airport for the big planes traveling long-haul routes. The can present special problems due to “wake turbulence”:
“Wake turbulence, similar to the wake a boat creates, poses a safety threat to trailing aircraft. Because of this, there is a longer delay between departing and arriving aircraft when one of these large, or as we say “heavy,” aircraft enters the picture. With only three runways available, this adds to the headache of keeping traffic flowing.” – Daniel Fahl for CNN, 3-11-10
If you’ll be heading to JFK this Spring, watch for delays – especially if you’ll be traveling during “rush hour”.
This is interesting: a little earlier today, I told you that JetBlue and Delta were asking for an exemption to the new “no delays longer than 3-hours” rule that’s due to go into effect next month.
As it stands, the rule says violators will be fined $27,500 – and that’s per passenger.
Continental, however, is taking a different approach – but CEO Jeff Smisek says his airline won’t be risking those fines, either:
“Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to cancel the flight.” – Continental’s Jeff Smisek, 3-9-10
The Department of Transportation’s response?
“Carriers have it within their power to schedule their flights more realistically, to have spare aircraft and crews available to avoid cancellations.” – DOT’s Bill Mosely, 3-9-10
Oh, it’s on – it is on.