I left some comments over at Hit Coffee concerning a New Republic article on airline flight cancellations, the upshot of which is that it's just not true that Airlines cancel flights because they aren't full enough.
Well, yeah. But it never occurred to me to make this argument. If anything, Airlines routinely overbook their flights in the expectation that somebody will miss their flight and they'll be able to charge for the same seat twice. That's why they're forced to bribe passengers to stay behind.
But the premise is not the only thing objectionable about the article.
Comedian Louis CK has absolutely no patience for the complaints of airline passengers. “People on planes, they complain,” he says. “They get off the plane, they come to your house, and they tell you about their whole flight experience…. ‘That was the worst day of my life! I had to sit on the runway for forty minutes!’… People will stop doing the dishes and turn around and go, ‘Oh my God, really? For forty minutes? That’s awful! You should sue them.'”
Let me tell you a flight delay story: In the summer of 2011, I was on a evening Delta flight out of Atlanta. The flight boarded an hour late. Once boarded, we sat at the gate for an additional hour. We then pulled away from the gate and sat on the taxiway for a third hour. Then we took off.
Not 15 minutes after takeoff, the pilot announced that the plane was having some mechanical issues and would have to return to the airport. Our plane then circled the airport for another hour (this was only supposed to be an hour and a half flight) before landing. We then sat on the taxiway again before getting back to the gate. We spent the night in the airport before getting on a “special” flight the next morning. For all this, we received — wait for it — a meal voucher.
Short of the airlines offering cancelled passengers overly generous compensation, like a free round-trip flight to Sydney, none of them will be happy about it. Even in the midst of a major thunderstorm, passengers will still complain about cancellations.
Let me tell you a flight cancellation story: back in February, the second leg of my United Airlines flight was cancelled. The plane was good to go. The weather in our departing city was good. The weather in our destination city was good. The weather along our route was good. But our would-be pilot was stranded in another city because his flight was cancelled because of weather. So not only was our flight cancelled (hey, sh!t happens), but our cancellation was deemed “weather related”, so no hotel, no meal vouchers, no consideration of any kind. We could wait a full 24 hours in the airport for the next evening’s flight. Maybe.
We opted instead to rent a car and drive it. There were three of us, plus a nice Mormon gentleman in the same pickle we were in, so the UA refunds for that leg covered the cost of the car. But that refund was a proration of the total ticket cost by mile, and a tiny fraction of the cost of what UA was charging for that flight ala carte.
So . . . no, it’s not just about the flight to Sydney.