Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We Have Ways To Make You Flexible

Why did the weekend's blizzards on the East coast tie up air travel more than they would have back in the day? Why, it's the airlines' "inflexibility," according to the New York Times. Reporter Joe Sharkey runs through the particulars. Profitable airlines don't provide enough personnel to help stranded passengers book new flights. When travelers do get through to a human being, it's hard to get seats, because airlines have figured out how to run fewer flights so that most planes fly full. Pesky profit motive again!

Of course there's one more little thing making airlines inflexible. Sharkey interviews a pilot who says that in the old days, airlines at least tried to get flights off the ground during snowstorms. No more. In April, a federal law went into effect permitting the government to fine airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for every person who's stuck in a plane on the tarmac for three hours or more. "Now they’re often not even trying to take off," the pilot said. "They’re just going straight to wholesale cancellations."

And whose fault is that? And yet you can bet the cash-strapped feds are wondering if they can pass laws telling airlines how many operators to hire and airplanes to fly, or else. Our government's motto: Fined if you do, fined if you don't.

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