Now there is the question of our time, huh? The latest headlines about more stranded passengers over the weekend will surely raise the volume level as the well-intentioned march on Congress begging for a bill of rights for airline passengers. Stories like this one that I found while parousing through flyertalk.com surely sound bad, if nothing else.
An unemotional review of a few facts is in order.
1) Airlines are flying more passengers than ever on fewer total seats.
2) Because of # 1, load factors are at historical highs. Average load factors above 75 percent really mean that airlines’ most popular flights are running 100 percent full.
3) Full planes make it far more difficult for airlines to reacommodate you if your flight is cancelled. This creates an incentive to not cancel, which can lead to long onboard delays. If they do cancel, it may be a day or two before you get home (see this weekend’s headlines).
4) Airlines have cut staffing to levels that just barely work in good weather.
5) Most airlines automated systems work well enough when flights are operating on time. They don’t work well at all when operational difficulties wreak havoc on schedules. More often than not, you are going to have to speak to a real live agent in these situations.
Some airlines are better at dealing with adversity than others, but all of them have “their moments” when nothing goes well. I think that several have experienced their moment this winter.