“It’s Third World. It’s just disgraceful.”
— Caroline O’Rourke, an Irish tourist stranded along with 20,000 other travelers at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug 12 because of a computer glitch. Passengers on more than 40 planes spent several hours stuck on the runways. (TIME magazine, Aug 27)
What is it about domestic airline ‘service’ in the US now?
TSA agents bark at you unceasingly as you stand shoeless in holding pens. They stuff you into cubicles where air jets and magnets probe your body. After 3 years and millions of lighters confiscated, they now say lighters are no longer lethal. But more than 3 ounces of mouthwash is (try asking them how many milliliters an ounce is).
It’s worse after you board. They keep thousands of people in airplanes for HOURS, on the tarmac, at the gate.
They bark at you to STAY SEATED.
They bark at you that you CAN’T get off the airplane.
Then they bark at you that if you leave the airplane you WON’T be let back on.
Finally they bark at you that if you want to get another flight you must leave NOW.
They announce these rules only when the passenger complaints mount. Clearly, there is an incapability to anticipate customer needs.
It never occurs to them that they took your money for this ‘service’.
Last year, I sat in an AA flight at Miami for TWO hours at the gate. Because of lightning 20 miles away. You see, if there is lightning within 25 miles, ramp workers go indoors, leaving baggage carts and catering trucks on the ramp. It’s a union/liability/legal thing, like most things are nowadays in America.
(Of course, thousands of passengers stranded outdoors in aluminum tubes brimming with JetA-1 kerosene are not in danger, right?)
This shuts down the airport. All aircraft movement stops. Flights (what a pun!) stagnate at the gate.
Meanwhile, the golfers don’t even leave the fairways nearby.
The airline industry in the US is full of wimps. Where have all the Joe Patronis gone?
Again, last month at Dallas-Fort Worth. American had me Chicago to Dallas, connecting to San Francisco and Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. I booked connections THREE HOURS apart, to allow for delays.
Guess what? Dallas had a couple of thunderstorms to the north, whence my flight was coming from (Chicago). My flight diverted to Tyler, TX for an unscheduled fuel stop. That wiped out my 3-hour buffer, and I missed the connection to San Francisco.
Everyone inside the airplane meekly took this all without a whimper of complaint.
I asked the stew if we would get hotel rooms, since we were now stranded. All our connecting flights had left us.
She self-righteously declared that the delay was due to weather. The airline was not liable.
I said, “We were not delayed by weather. We were delayed because YOU ran out of fuel.”
The Captain was standing behind her. He gave me the most imperceptible of nods.
(You see, they burn fuel to carry fuel. To cut costs, they upload minimum fuel. When there are storms in the way, they immediately divert, since there is no fuel to go around a thunderstorm. They drop you a hundred miles short at their ‘alternate’ airport.)
The stew then barked out that ANYONE needing hotel rooms SHOULD MAKE their OWN reservations NOW, by cell phone. No apology for stranding us overnight in a city we never planned to be in, our lives on hold.
In Hong Kong 36 hours later, rainstorms swept across the massive Chep Lap Kok airport. The ramp crews worked on in raincoats, and my Cathay Pacific flight to Manila pushed back on time.
We departed on the dot, the taxiways still wet with rain, skirted the thunderstorm, and the British Captain predicted an on-time arrival in Manila.
And he was right.