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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Airline Delays & Cancellations

Most annoying, to the business traveler, is airline delays and cancellations. Although delays are not isolated to just the airline industry they are the most prevalent.

So how do we handle that? The simple answer is, “Not well.”

The airlines claim four official types of delays: weather, mechanical, crew being timed-out or anything else that does not fall into the other three. I will address the “weather” issue in this article.

Weather is the killer of hope that you will arrive at your destination on time, if at all. It is the root of the most dreaded cancellation and weather cancellations leave the airline no responsibility to you for anything, except maybe rebooking you for a later time, or day.

If the plane is delayed or canceled for a mechanical problem and you will be stranded at the airport for a considerable amount of time, usually you will get, if requested, a meal voucher. It will be for a dollar amount that is equal to fast food costs so don’t get your hopes up for a gourmet meal on the house. Hotel vouchers will be issued if you must stay overnight. Not so with weather issues. You are on your own.

You may ask, “What about ATC, or Air Traffic Control issued holds and delays?” Well, ATC delays are usually due to “weather conditions.” These can occur at airports other than the one you are trying to leave. If you’re in sunny Los Angeles a snow storm in Chicago or thunder storms in Houston will slow things down for the entire country even if you are not going to either of those destinations. And if you are, many times ATC will not allow your flight to leave the airport. The reason? So there will be no wasted fuel by requiring your aircraft to circle while other planes are landing at a slower rate in the bad-weather location.

Personally, I hate it when I am on my way home and ATC makes my pilot do figure eights or circles in the sky to kill time before landing, due to weather conditions. With thousands of planes in the sky at any given time I just want to go straight to the runway, land and not be one of those thousands of aircraft that air traffic controllers are trying to keep from colliding into each other in the sky.

Simple delays of an hour or two are usually tolerable, unless you have made the really stupid mistake of setting up the most important meeting of the year to begin an hour after you were to arrive. It doesn’t matter if the flight was to be six hours or thirty minutes late. If you are late, you look incompetent and blaming the airline is lame. It will only emphasize your own poor judgment and planning.

I always leave the day before my business is to start. It simply gives me a twenty-four hour buffer zone. If my flight happens to be cancelled completely, I then have the opportunity to postpone the meeting with a full day’s heads up to the customer or client.

So sit back, relax and . . . wait.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The United / Continental Merger

More than twenty years ago I decided that United Airlines was not what I would call a good airline. In fact, it sucked. I made my decision to fly ANY other airline but United. It didn't take me long to discover that Continental was one of the best---if not, The Best!
   Now comes the merger between the best and the worst. Funny, it didn't take long for Continental to scrap the free food, start charging again for headsets, barrel the pillows and blankets, start copping an 'attitude' and again start doing extreme (United style) overbooking, which causes delays on take-off, if they can't get enough volunteers to take a later flight.
   The changes will continue through the end of this year as we are told. My fear is my 2.5 million accumulated One Pass Program frequent flier miles that I still have not used, will expire as does the current United plan. Sure, now that I am at the age where I can take more leisure time I’ll lose the benefit. Hopefully, they will not do this. But already, effective October of this year, they will not longer accept transfer of American Express points to One Pass Miles.
   Your thoughts?

Friday, April 22, 2011

TSA: Feel me - Love me - Let me move on

            Okay all you road warriors, let’s talk TSA. We love these people, don't we? They protect us from all those old ladies with five once bottles of shampoo, grope six year old kids, wave their metal-detecting wands atop bald guy’s heads and hassle guys like us who have been traveling via the airlines for decades.
            Some of us (like me) signed up for the Fly Clear program, which was offered a while back. Most were under the impression this would do a comprehensive background check and allow us more latitude to get through the security line quicker. It did, but only because the Fly Clear line had few subscribers. And yes, they did an extensive check, took you finger prints and did an eye scan for ID and security. But, once you passed that, there was no change with TSA's shoes, belts, bottles and all other varying policies. The program closed shortly after I did not renew. It has reopened again but since it is at so few airports, I have still not bothered to renew.
            Last week I refused to go into the x-ray. (Opted out, as they called it) Too much radiation in the past month or so, caused my decision.
          Wow, the fat-assed TSA woman was pissed because I was refusing to be x-rayed and would cause a little more work for them. Hey, we pay a fee for this on our tickets so why not get our money’s worth? She could not have been more obnoxious! The guy who was finally required to grope me asked if there was any part of my body I didn’t want him to touch. I said, “Are you kidding!? Yeah, don’t touch my junk.” So where do you think he went first? (No explanation needed.)
            My opinion is we should do what El Al Airlines does: PROFILE!! Oh, I guess that’s a dirty word these days. Too damned bad, I say. What do you say?

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