Is this the worst week for air travelers since 9/11?

Victor/Shutterstock
Victor/Shutterstock

From bankruptcies to terrorist attacks, air travelers have seen it all in the last decade or so. But I can’t think of a week that’s been jam-packed with so much bad news for airline passengers since 2001. Maybe you can, but stick with me for a moment while I review the list.

It isn’t just the sequestration problems that are causing unforeseen slowdowns — it’s a confluence of other events, some related to the mandatory cuts, but many not.

FAA furloughs. The government cutbacks provide the bleak backdrop for this week’s events, with the FAA yesterday predicting a wide range of delays. On Tuesday, more than 1,025 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough, according to the FAA. That’s not as bad as some observers who ought to know better had predicted. But there’s still time for things to get much worse.

New change fees. United Airlines and US Airways both raised fees to change a non-refundable airline ticket to $200 for domestic flights, a $50 increase. In other words, it now costs more to change a ticket than to buy one for most passengers. Absurd? You bet. Now the pressure is on Delta Air Lines, the number-two airline, to follow suit. Most industry-watchers believe it will quietly do so before the end of the week. I hope it doesn’t. This is a chance for Delta to differentiate itself and do something pro-consumer, for a change.

TSA delays knife policy. Amid all this chaos, the TSA decided to delay a new rule that would permit small knives on planes. Why? Maybe it didn’t want to add to the furlough confusion. Then again, maybe it has absolutely no idea what it’s doing and is turning tail and running away from what would have probably been a common-sense rule. But who knows?

Tarmac-delay rule may be suspended. But the worst possible news, just in advance of the busy summer travel season, came from the airline industry’s trade group A4A, which has proposed suspending the tarmac-delay rules in the wake of sequestration. Those rules let passengers off the plane if they have to wait for more than three hours. A4A argues it needs more time, given the FAA furloughs.

On days like today, I’m happy to not be flying. Like you, I’m trying to understand the airline industry’s need to increase fees, even as it is flush with profits. (Greed, perhaps?) I’m trying to understand the reason the tarmac-delay rule should be suspended, but the airline industry’s arguments don’t make any sense to me.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say these FAA furloughs are being used to pull a fast one on passengers.

Is this the worst week for air travelers since 9/11?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • crash025

    Connections.

  • crash025

    Nope. They tend to have PR campaigns to respond to constituent contacts.

  • bodega3

    Yes, knowing the rules would help, but the carriers and OTA know all shoppers care about is price so that is what they dangle in front of you. Also not having live availability doesn’t help you either. They also don’t give you all your options on flights either. They don’t have to, but they do in the GDS.

  • bodega3

    You can get 3 connections. I have booked those for clients.

  • crash025

    You can get BA to go LHR->BOS->CLT->ATL?

  • bodega3

    Their first port of entry in the US is where their true segment stops and you can use a code share to continue on. Just like taking UA from SFO to LHR to FRA to CPH. The last two segments will be on a European carrier code share.

  • bodega3

    I am sure you can test it on your next cruise.

  • Raven_Altosk

    See, I fly to MCO a lot and I encounter these idiots who check their brains on the way to vacation. That, and I’ve had my fair share of Di$ney trips where I’ve encountered stupidity in action.

    Also, my fiancee was even a CM at one point. Want to get her started? Ask her about people who would complain that it was raining and demand refunds. SERIOUSLY?!?! And then ask her about the GAC and GAC Abuse…it’s like…all I can do to get her to drink some wine and calm down at that point…

  • http://bidontravel.com/mobile/index.html Don Nadeau

    Such a wonderful way to travel. Have done it twice, but not on the QM2. You will arrive with near zero or zero jet lag. Enjoy!

    You might want to consider taking the Eurostar train to France from London.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    We would have done the Eurostar if we were doing Paris first, but we’re spending the first week in Brittany/Normandy and the 2nd in Paris. So we’re flying straight to Rennes from Southampton.

  • Extra mail

    And, of course, none of the furloughs will be taking place in D.C. I wonder why?

  • frostysnowman

    I believe you!

  • Alan Gore

    What’s wrong with being able to sell tickets on a larger selection of airlines? Increased consumer choice, especially on airlines like Singapore or Emirates, means more people will fly.

  • Susan

    If UAL did that to me, I’d try contesting it on my credit card. I would expect the card holder to back me up on a contest based on not getting a paid-for service.

  • pauletteb

    A whole lot of people don’t agree with you that allowing small knives on planes is “common sense.”