Thursday, March 27, 2008

Flying the Hostile Skies

I just heard the oddest, most infuriating air travel story of the year. And it happened to a dear friend of mine. In fact, she's still grounded as I write this. But more on that in a moment.

You may have heard earlier this week that a federal appeals court struck down a New York state law that would have required airlines to provide food water, fresh air, and only slightly revolting toilets to any passengers trapped on the tarmac for over three hours. The judges' reasoning was that only the federal government has the power to regulate air traffic, which I actually find persuasive, since most of us do cross state borders whenever we fly (California and Alaska being obvious exceptions).

Similar legislation has cleared the U.S. House of Representatives and is now awaiting Senate action, so there's hope of redress. I can actually imagine Dubya slapping the bill with a veto, because the poor widdle incompetent airlines don't like it. Of course, he'd face the wrath of millions - not that that's ever stopped him.

But grounding is not just for delays anymore! My friend J. is stranded in Albuquerque this morning with her two young daughters, and it's largely due to what you might call an anti-delay. They arrived more than an hour in advance, but the check-in lines made the terminal look more like a football stadium (as J.'s husband told me) and they missed their plane.

The kicker? The plane left ten minutes early.

Maybe the airlines have decided that on-time stats can be calculated as an average, and if enough flights leave ten minutes early, they'll balance out those six- and ten-hour delays. This might also be a clever tactic for when they've overbooked, so they can avoid compensating bumped passengers. And of course, if you could leave all the passengers on the ground, just think of the fuel savings!

The culprit this time is United. If my friends don't make it back in time for their scheduled playdate with my kids tomorrow, I'll be tempted to tape my kids' sad, whiny, complaining reaction and send it to United's CEO.

Flying kittehs from I Can Has Cheezburger?


Smirking Cat said...

I've never liked flying, and the post-9/11 security measures have been in place long enough that one may believe they could have streamlined it just a tad. It's not the flight part I can't's standing in line an extra hour just to get to my gate.

Sungold said...

And it's the presumption, while you're standing in said line, that you are a criminal until proven otherwise. Especially if you're married to someone who consistently exceeds the 3-ounce size for liquids in carry-ons. And even more so if said spouse is a furriner! Ironically, I am more paranoid about the TSA than he is, which makes me wonder if fear has been bred into the American soul.

Oooh, maybe we need to start an airline rant blog! Actually, I'm sure they already exist ...