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FAA Disrespects Travellers With Dishonest On Time Announcements

United Airlines flight 957, scheduled to leave the ground at 4:29 this afternoon, is on time, though it has not yet left the ground.

That may seem like a strange declaration to you, given that I’m writing this article at 4:54 in the afternoon. Actually, flight 957 has been rescheduled to leave the ground at just before 8:00 PM tonight.

I’m supposed to be on that flight, but I’m not really sure if it’s ever going to take off. The FAA is stringing us along, you see.

j cliffordIf you look at the departure announcement terminals in the airport, you see that the flight is on time. You get the same information if you look for flight information online. If you look at the gate itself, there’s no announcement of any delay.

The man at the United Airlines counter tells me that there is a delay until at least 7:50 PM, but that United Airlines isn’t authorized to give that information to travelers or their families or their businesses. He says that’s because the flight departure time could be changed again, and the FAA doesn’t want travelers to go get dinner somewhere else in the airport, or go to the bathroom, or take a walk to stretch their legs. Travelers who are on the delayed flight are, instead, supposed to sit at the gate for hour after hour after hour, just waiting for an announcement.

Essentially, the FAA is admitting that it doesn’t have a reliable system for rescheduling flights, but it’s not willing to reform that system. Instead, they’ll go on stating that flights are on time when they aren’t, and won’t make accurate, updated information available to travellers because travellers can’t be trusted to take care of themselves.

It’s another step down for air travel, which has become less respectful of travelers with every passing year since 2001. It’s another good argument for keeping business local, and reducing business travel by air to the absolute minimum necessary.

5 comments to FAA Disrespects Travellers With Dishonest On Time Announcements

  • Luther

    The problem isn’t with the FAA. It’s with the NYC airports–I presume that’s where you’re headed–and with an ice storm moving across the country.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071202/ap_on_re_us/winter_storm

    My husband died in a plane crash, so I’m never too eager to rush to take a flight that might be better delayed.

    If they go so far as to cancel your flight, too bad you don’t know someone in town you can crash on their couch. But they provide hotel rooms when they do that…don’t they..?

  • No, I wasn’t in NYC. And no, the problem isn’t with delays due to weather. The problem is that the FAA mandates that the airlines not tell us all, while we’re waiting, when the flight will actually take off. Instead, we get false information that the flight is on time.

    Delays are natural. Withholding information about them from travelers is not.

    And no, they don’t provide hotel rooms when there are delays and cancellations. I’ve had to sleep on the floor at airports too often to believe that anymore.

  • Luther

    Still, if you have to go through NY to get home, that’s where the bottleneck is. Weather in NY is affecting hub airports that aren’t anywhere near there. They won’t take off unless they can be guaranteed to land. You would certainly be welcome to my couch, such as it is, in the unlikely event you are ever stranded here. I guess the days of airlines providing those hotel/hot shower amenities are over.

    Sleeping in airports is an acquired skill–some of my international trips have been 25 or 30 hours with enough time for naps between connecting flights–but still it’s never quality sleep.

    Yes, they should tell you what they know about flight delays. How much extra time and effort could it take for that basic courtesy?
    What’s wrong with the system that they can’t think of that by themselves?

    Safe journey.

  • Luther, I wasn’t going through NYC either.

    The problem is that they have thought about being honest with travelers about flight delays… and then thought better of it, deciding that it’s better to withhold the information from us.

    It troubles me that such withholding of information has become such a pattern throughout the federal government in recent years.

  • Iroquois

    And what does it mean when they are standing in front of a sign that says departure 6:15 and it is already 6:20. Is it really too much trouble to tell you the departing flight hasn’t arrived yet on account of weather delay? And does security really have to scratch your laptop and leave fingerprints all over the screen in order to determine that it doesn’t contain a suitcase bomb? And what’s with the no lotion over 3.4 ounces thing?

    Somebody drink some bubbly for me, there’s none here sleeping on airport floors.

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