More than 26 percent of commercial flights in the U.S. arrived late or
were canceled last year as rising passenger demand and an industry
preference for smaller planes intensified congestion in the skies and
on runways. Excluding cancellations, however, 2007 was the worst on record for
flight delays, with 24.2 percent arriving late, compared with 23.9
percent in 2000...
Worse yet, it's not going to get better. For one,
The air-travel logjam, reported Tuesday by the Department of
Transportation, comes as a growing number of air traffic controllers
near retirement age -- a trend the controllers' union says will magnify
And for another thing,
There is no sign of improvement on the horizon, analysts said, because
airlines continue to replace larger aircraft with smaller ones. The
practice is intended to maximize profit margins by flying with fewer
empty seats, but it also means more flights and more congestion and
American TSA staff will soon be watching travelers' faces for telltale signs. According to the Seattle PI some airport workers are scrutinizing our mugs to see if we betray hidden levels of fear or nervousness. Now, for most of us there's nothing hidden about our feelings! Experienced travelers spend a great deal of time in existential dread as we shamble from "lounge" seat to cramped airplane perch.
But I've experienced something like this already. Last year, in Philadelphia, I noticed a TSA group in front of my departure gate. Which was unusual. My first (and correct) response was, sadly, to look away, not make eye contact. After a few minutes of that I became embarrassed at my own cowardice, and looked up at the staffers, and briefly made eye contact. I was shortly thereafter searched. Well, Philly is one of the worst US airports...
Both of my domestic air flights were delayed today, and isn't it interesting how we expect such things?
The first flight orbited over Newark for an extra hour, because of unexplained delays on the ground. Weather was fine, no holidays or other crises loomed, and air traffic was not cited. I read, remembering my recent plan to bring long, long books when I fly in the US.
Now my Newark->Burlington flight is at least one hour late, because the plane we need to use took a long time to leave its previous site. We, a bunch of passengers, had to prod the gate agent several times to get a reason: that other airport was crowded. Again, the weather is fine, no holidays are screwing up schedules, etc. It's simply an ordinary day.
It's just the way air travel works. Like Amtrak, we now expect domestic flights to be late, and receive a small buzz of unexpected pleasure when they're on time.
As a practical matter, I'm expanding the size of layovers for trips. And expanding the interval between landing somewhere and being expected to do something near there. And increasing the amount of reading material.
But I can't stand how much this weighs on my wife and children, who simply cannot know when I'll return home, until I've actually landed in Vermont. They can't plan anything around me, not meals, not picking me up, not their own appointments.
And as awful as this is, are we seeing signs of improvement in US airlines?
Once again, my terrible law of hotels and internet connectivity is confirmed. Alan Levine is the hapless empiricist. For those new to Alexander's Iron Law, it's tragically simple: the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive and/or lower quality the internet connectivity.