UPDATE: Officials are now saying the controller fell asleep on the job.
EARLIER: This was all over the news today: how first an American Airlines plane, and then a United flight landed at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport without benefit of an air traffic controller. Nope, there was nobody home – or at least, nobody was answering the pilots when they checked in with the tower the other day.
Fortunately, there were no problems and both aircraft landed safely.
By the way, there was only one controller on the job. That’s right, just one. That controller has since been suspended while an investigation is underway.
Here’s my $.02: As a passenger, I would prefer that there be two folks in the cockpit as well as two folks in the tower every time I fly; if not, please let me know about this before I buy my airline ticket.
This is just another example of common sense being tossed out the window only to be uncovered in what could have been a potentially disastrous situation.
You’ve seen the news: snow and ice in much of the nation (and I can tell you the roads in Dallas were very icy this morning).
If you’re supposed to fly today, one word of advice: don’t.
Stay home and avoid the mess at the airports:
- Take advantage of the airline “change fee” waivers: Contact your airline to reschedule your flight without having to pay the $150 change fee.
- Don’t get stuck: Being at the airport is no guarantee of quick rescheduling; a colleague’s wife who was scheduled to fly today just learned she won’t depart snowbound Scotland until Friday
Already at the airport? Contact your airline immediately. More tips:
- Multi-task communications: If your flight is canceled or delayed, immediately get in line and listen to the gate agent; at the same time, call the airline (it may be quicker)
- Use your elite miles status: If your status entitles you to a dedicated airline phone number, use it
- Follow your airline on Twitter: Airlines have staff monitoring social networks, and often respond more quickly to tweets for help than other communications
Important Note! There is a misconception that there is a federal requirement that forces airlines to provide you with hotel or meal vouchers in weather situations; there is not. Bad weather is considered outside an airline’s control. However, some airlines may offer such things as a goodwill gesture, and by all means, ask.
See more tips in my article called, Bad Weather Flight Delays and Cancelled Flights: What to Do Next?
I don’t have to tell you about the difficult situation in Cairo and other areas of Egypt; it’s all over the news.
If you have family or friends there in need of assistance, please go to Travel.State.Gov, which is the U.S. State Department’s website – and see further contact information below.
The U.S. government has begun flying travelers out of Cairo today, January 31 – see these FAQ’s for more on these emergency flights. You must let the embassy know you want a place on these flights, which for now, have been departing from Cairo International Airport’s HAJ Terminal 4. Priority is given to those with medical problems.
Contact the U.S. State Dept.
Here is how to get in touch with U.S. government officials monitoring the situation in Egypt:
Travelers in Egypt
Contact or go in person to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo (if it seems safe to get there):
The Embassy of the United States of America – Cairo
5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo
Telephone: (20-2) 2797 3300, Fax: (20-2) 2797 3200
From Travel.State.Gov: U.S. citizens in Egypt are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) at the following website: https://travelregistration.state.gov. U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
Did you hear what the Georgia legislature did?
They voted to allow people – with properly licensed guns – to bring them into that state’s airports.
The non-secure areas of airports, that is, which would include terminals, baggage claim, parking lots and the like.
I don’t like it. See where I’m coming from in “Guns at the Airport: Worst Idea Ever?” and tell me if you agree – or, disagree.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the capture of the suspected “Times Square Bomber”.
Maybe not all about it. I mean, do you know how close this guy was to getting out of the country?
It makes you wonder about our airport security. And it makes me incredibly disappointed – and I note in this new article called, “‘We Got Lucky’ is No Way to Conduct Airport Security” – take a look, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Okay, this is getting seriously ridiculous.
Somebody wrote what was considered to be a “threatening message” – a bomb threat of some kind – on a lavatory mirror aboard a Continental flight from Houston to Washington Dulles (actually, this flight was operated by ExpressJet).
There was no bomb, fortunately – but why would anyone do this? Did they want to make a side trip to Greensboro, North Carolina where the flight was diverted to?
A plane load of passengers was totally inconvenienced – just like the people on the Delta flight from Paris Tuesday, after a decorated combat vet allegedly made a bomb threat, causing his flight to divert to Maine.
Regarding that “lavatory mirror threat” – what are the rest of us supposed to do – become bathroom monitors? Take a good hard look at whoever is in the lavatory line ahead of us, so we can ID them later if need be?
I hope not. But it’s getting crazy out there…
Whew – this was a story that needed a good ending, and there is one.
It seems a dog that works with the Norwegian Armed Forces Military Police landed at Washington Dulles Airport with his handler – he was in the U.S. for “additional training” – when he somehow got out of his crate Wed. night and took off outside. And “outside” is a pretty big place at Dulles which has 12,000 acres.
Worse, the dog – a young Doberman – was described by his handler in these chilling terms: “He does bite work.”
Washington’s WTOP TV is reporting that he was finally found and reunited with his military escort, but there is no description of how it happened – did they use a net? Perhaps the promise of a treat? Or a heartfelt, “nice doggie”? I do not know.
Fortunately, there was no mention of any injuries, to hound or handler.
UPDATE: United has apologized.
A strange and awful story reported on Consumerist – awful, if true (and I have no reason to believe it’s a hoax or anything of that nature – there are too many details that could be checked, it seems to me – but we are trying to learn more). It’s certainly creating a lot of buzz.
And I think it’s worth talking about, even though the details are sketchy – because the needs of the disabled just don’t often get a lot of thought from many of us.
Anyway, the story concerns a recent blog post by a self-described “disabled woman” with a spinal injury, who identifies herself as “Rachel D.” She writes that, on a recent United flight, she couldn’t lift her carryon bag into the overhead bin - and asked a flight attendant for help.
She claims this was the flight attendant’s chilly response:
“If I helped everyone do that all day then MY back would be killing me by the end of the day!” I asked her how I was supposed to get my luggage stowed and her answer was: “You’ll just have to wait for someone from your row to come back here and ask them to give you a hand.” When I asked what would happen if no one would, her response to me was: “Well, normally a passenger is around to overhear something like this and they’ll offer to help with it on their own. You’ll just have to ask someone when they get back here.”
Keep reading – it doesn’t get better…
Disabled Woman Says United Flight Attendants No Help