Why Fine Airlines for Their Bit Roles in Tarmac Delays?

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  1. Titans26

    Titans26 Silver Member

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    Why Fine Airlines for Their Bit Roles in Tarmac Delays?
    By Ted Reed - 11/17/11 - 8:16 AM EST
    Tickers in this article: AMR JBLU
    CHARLOTTE, N.C. TheStreet) -- Fining airlines for tarmac delays appears to make sense, in a simplistic way.
    Customers buy tickets from airlines, so if the trips don't work out why not fine the airlines? This is a particularly appropriate course in a nation afflicted with anti-airline hysteria. It enables politicians to appear to take action and media to present stories that display empathy by condemning airlines.

    If only life were so simple. If only we could simply vote against Barack Obama and make the deficit go away, restore our credit rating and keep the post office open on Saturday.
    Unfortunately, a look at any of the best-known recent tarmac delays makes it clear that airlines are, in most cases, only bit players in extreme weather scenarios, over which they have little control. Government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (part of the Transportation Department), as well as airport administrators, play key roles in the decision-making.
    But wait. Wouldn't that mean that to be fair the Transportation Department would have to fine itself? Nobody wants to look so stupid. Fining airlines is not only far easier, but it also offers an invaluable side benefit: favorable media coverage. That's why Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the man who took on the evil airline empire, was handing out the interviews on Monday.
    Monday was the day the Transportation Department finally levied its first fine for a tarmac delay, under the ill-conceived mandate that took effect in April 2010. The department fined American Eagle parent AMR(AMR) $900,000.
    Note to DOT: Starting with its 2001 results, AMR has lost about $13 billion. Recently, bankruptcy fears have engulfed the company, pushing its share price down to the low single digits. Isn't there anyone else to fine?
    Also, we must ask: If the poor passengers must sit on an airplane for three hours or more -- without food, water or working bathrooms -- why does the government get the money? Is this really the only deficit reduction idea Congress can agree on?
    Now, let's look at a few of the circumstances of these delays.
    In the case of the American Eagle delays, on May 29 a weather system moving through Chicago brought three successive ramp closures due to lightning. Eagle cancelled 126 flights in an effort to reduce pressure on airport facilities. Then the FAA allowed inbound flights to resume. Unfortunately, inbound flights were soon landing faster than outbound flights were taking off.
    One possible solution: Fine the airline. Another possible solution: Fine the FAA! What would you do? What would Ray LaHood do?
    By the way, while three hours is a long time to be stuck in a small plane, the Eagle cases were not as egregious as some others. The average wait time was three hours and 18 minutes; the shortest was three hours and nine minutes and the longest was three hours and 45 minutes. The bathrooms on the planes were all working, American has said. Bad, yes. But $900,000 bad?
    More recently, Hartford's Bradley International Airport on Oct. 29 was the scene of more extreme tarmac delays -- more than seven hours on three JetBlue(LCC) flights and one American flight.
    All four, as well as about a dozen other flights, diverted to Hartford in a major snowstorm because they could not land at New York airports. But Bradley, a small airport, was overwhelmed with diverted flights. It didn't have enough gates to accommodate all the planes, it didn't have enough buses to fetch passengers, and it didn't always have electricity to enable refueling and jetbridge set-ups.
    In the case of American, its Paris-New York flight landed in Bradley with the intent to get fuel and continue on to its Chicago hub. With no fuel to be had, and with a very small customs office that could not process everyone from diverted international flights, American asked airport officials to let passengers disembark into an assigned area. The airline promised to ensure the passengers remained there for customs inspections. This request was denied.
    Do you: A. Fine the FAA? B. Fine the airport? C. Fine U.S. Immigration and Customs? D. Devise a plan so that potential relief airports, just outside major aviation markets, are prepared for extreme weather events? E. Take the easy way out and fine the airline.
    By the way, the airlines all say their passengers generally prefer having planes depart to getting stuck in the tarmac. However, the threat of the maximum $27,500 per-passenger fines makes carriers much more likely to cancel flights.
    No doubt that is true. But the point is that getting stuck in an airplane is far worse than getting stuck in an airport. So overall it's good for the government to act to make such experiences less common.
    But is it too much to ask that blame and fines be fairly assessed? And shouldn't the spoils be distributed to the victims rather than the government?
    -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
    >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed
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  2. cvarming
    Original Member

    cvarming Silver Member

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    If they fines somehow got distributed to the pax then I can imagine a whole new kind of mileage (money) running in bad weather. Much like the people booking flights they think might get oversold. I could use $27500 any day.
    LETTERBOY likes this.

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