Anyone traveling this holiday season could feel the cuts. There was less staff and less flexibility and just plain less of everything it seemed....
We picked December 30 to fly because this middle time between the holidays is usually a safe bet for smooth sailing.
Not so much this year. We got caught up in the debacle of bad weather in Dallas, which delayed our flight in Seattle. Having gotten up at 2:30 am to make a 6 am flight - our departure was put back again and again - with the explanation of "the crew got in late, they needed to sleep in." Not exactly the best thing to tell a bunch of bleary-eyed customers.
The fact that they didn't tell us was that there was a mess in Dallas and Austin where those folks had it even worse -- they were sitting ON THE AIRPLANES waiting. Flight 1348, a San Francisco-Dallas run was diverted to Austin, and sat on the runway with people on the plane for 12 hours.
Think planes jammed with kids, backed-up toilets and holiday revelers who had the wind blown out of them. American's Flight 1682 from Oklahoma City to Dallas waited 8 hours in the plane before the flight was cancelled. Flight 37 from Zurich, Switzerland, to Dallas was diverted to Tulsa, Okla., where it sat for 10 hours. Passengers were on board for over 22 hours by the time it landed.
How could this happen? I naively thought to myself sitting and waiting and waiting in the airport? What about back-up crews? Shouldn't there be contingency plans for weather? And when we were we going to hear some sort of apology about this situation?
After years of cutting staff, carriers are less capable of handling crises -- from not having enough telephone reservationists to handle calls, or extra bodies to empty toilet tanks or spare pilots and flight attendants to help out when delays stack up. Congestion in the air and at airports exacerbates the messes caused when storms hit.
American says it is re-evaluating its flight-diversion strategy -- and is studying whether it should adopt a harder time limit on how long planes can sit and wait.
As for that apology -- we never got one. Just an explanation that it was weather. Seems the airline doesn't accept responsibility for weather -- or the mess that gets created for the lack of plannning in how to deal with it. As for those much more distressed folks sitting on planes for 10-22 hours, they got little respect or help either.
Friendly skies? I'm not so sure.
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