Do travelers need new federal protections?

It’s not your imagination. Congress seems to be paying closer attention to travelers’ welfare.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the International Travelers Bill of Rights, proposed bipartisan legislation that would require online travel agencies to disclose information about the potential health and safety risks of overseas vacation destinations marketed on their sites. A week earlier, I covered the aggressive new tarmac-delay laws included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.
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Hartford tarmac stranding doesn’t justify new laws

The Halloween weekend stranding of more than 1,000 airline passengers at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., brought the tarmac delay activists out in full force again, pushing for new laws that they claim would prevent lengthy ground delays.

The circumstances were admittedly dreadful. On Oct. 29, air traffic controllers diverted 28 flights to Hartford after a freak snowstorm hammered the region. Many planes were grounded for hours in the blizzard, unable to reach the terminal. Supplies of food and water dwindled. Toilets became clogged. Tempers flared.
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Ridiculous or not? Travel is going to the dogs — and it’s our fault

From the “gotcha” fees that can double the price of your trip to being roughed up by airport screeners, there’s no shortage of issues to get mad about in the travel business.

So why do we allow the little things to set us off?

Case in point: My last article on pets and travel, which set off a firestorm when it appeared here a few weeks ago. I wrote that pets were better off at home and had no business joining you on vacation.

My “in” box promptly filled up with email from angry animal companions – yes, that’s what they call themselves, because it’s apparently species-centric to say that you “own” a cat or dog – criticizing me for my insensitivity.
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Tarmac-delay rule gives air travelers more respect

If you’re afraid of being trapped in a parked plane on your next trip, stop worrying.

Only three flights were delayed more than three hours in July, the latest month reported by the Transportation Department. All the incidents happened on the evening of July 23, when a line of “very nasty” thunderstorms swept through Chicago, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.
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Government will require airlines to offer “complete picture” of ground delays

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. Here’s the first one. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

Attention, airlines: The government wants to know more about your tarmac delays.

Actually, it wants to know everything.

This week’s massive Transportation Department rulemaking contains a provision that would require airlines that must adopt tarmac-delay contingency plans to also file delay data with the department. If it’s passed, the result could be an insight into tarmac delays unlike any we’ve ever had.
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New tarmac delay contingency plans — what’s in it for you?

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules, which I wrote about yesterday on this site and in a special edition of my MSNBC column. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

There may be reason why the first order of business in the Transportation Department’s new rulemaking on passenger rights addresses the problem of tarmac delays. These rare but completely needless ground delays have been a political hotbutton, leading to previous action by the department that effectively bans airlines from keeping passengers parked on a taxiway for more than three hours.

But apparently, the rule didn’t go far enough.
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Delta wins tarmac delay hall of shame in latest month as airline complaints skyrocket

delta3The October tarmac delay numbers have just been released by the Transportation Department, and there’s good news: No one had to wait on a parked plane for more than four hours.

The bad news? Plenty of people had to wait more than three hours.

And more bad news: The number of airline complaints is up. Way up.
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Is the Department of Transportation really protecting air travelers?

happy trailsThat’s a question worth asking after the Secretary of Transportation posted a response to a column I wrote about tarmac delays.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he supported my “advocacy on behalf of airline passengers” but expressed disappointment in the column, which was published in Sunday’s Washington Post, for its perceived criticism of his agency. I’ve left a comment on the Secretary’s blog in response, but I wanted to address one of the bigger questions he raises.

Specifically, do I think DOT is falling down on the job?
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Tarmac delay hall of shame: US Airways loses in latest month

airwaysUnlike some of my esteemed travel writing colleagues, I won’t make the mistake of confusing a few tarmac delay activists with the entire passenger rights movement. Still, the August airline performance numbers, which have just been released by our friends at the Department of Transportation, merit a closer look.

You might think ExpressJet Airlines flight 2816 would be a standout. Not quite correct.
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