As predicted, airlines forced to cancel flights rather than risk fines

Last week’s winter weather forced the airlines to cancel massive amounts of flights. Was it really the weather? Or was it the work of “Uber-passenger” Kate Hanni and her electronic mob, at They have successfully lobbied for DOT rule changes and new federal Laws (Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Act of 2009). The organization surely has impressive aviation credentials in operational analysis and implementation to be able to virtually re-write the FARs. Especially Ms. Kate Hanni, who has given over 800 interviews according to their site, influencing Congressional Leaders like Barbara Boxer and even the international world of aviation.

Imagine how “Wowed” I was, to learn via her website, that dear Kate is a California Realtor, Napa no less. Impressive credentials for someone who is re-writing the FARs on aviation; add to that she has ridden in the back and got stuck during a storm once. Impressive indeed; and now the “press” runs to her door for expert analysis, apparently over 800 times so far.

And the results are in! Rather than risk fines, the airlines have concluded the only fix is to simply cancel entire banks of flights. When a metric tells them that the mandated limit approaches for a flight or bank of flights they just cancel. Ironically, it is much cheaper for the airlines than de-icing, flying half full aircraft (due to people missing their flights) and sitting for hours burning gas. And here’s the best part: because it is weather-, not company-related, they don’t have to provide hotels or food vouchers. Bingo, Jed’s a millionaire!

So bottom line: instead of waiting on the “tarmac”, it is really called the ramp. Normally during a weather event aircraft are stacked on taxiways, but let’s not throw any technical facts into the mix; this is about emotion and revenge! Instead of that ugly wait for hours on the taxiway, passengers will now wait for days, at their own cost, in a hotel. What a great solution from the Boxer/Hanni brain-trust of California!

Let me explain why: if your flight is canceled your seat goes away. It is a perishable service, end of story. The next day’s tickets are already sold – AND load factors are at historic highs. That means, you guessed it, stand-by for the canceled flights’  hundreds of passengers. Let’s look at JetBlue only: last Wednesday, they canceled 387 flights due to the storm. In 2005/2006, they averaged 254 cancels for the entire year, a dramatic change. Let’s now do the math; 387 x 149=57,663 stranded passengers. JetBlue has 250 flights a day in JFK, so the total number probably represents most of their flights in a day. But I feel generous; let’s say only half were canceled: back to math. JetBlue’s load factor is in excess of 80%, but again we will be generous and use 80. That is 120 seats filled on a 149 seat aircraft for 774 flights in a day – 22,446 seats a day to move 57,663 passengers. That would require two and one half days, if all the stars aligned. Obviously it is not linear, load factors are average and JetBlue flies the E-190 as well. This is simply a big picture look at what happens mathematically when flights cancel vice delay.

Passenger advocates say that airlines don’t need to cancel flights to prevent tarmac delays. “This is solvable” without excess cancellations, said Kate Hanni, who founded after a flight she was on in 2006 was stranded.

I suppose there are dumber statements out there, but I haven’t seen one for a while, and it shows just how clueless this “Aviation Advocate” actually is, in my opinion. She must assume each and every flight has a dedicated crew, gate and aircraft. Apparently she doesn’t know that aircraft and crew fly multiple flights a day, gates AND “tarmac” space are finite and that FAR’s cause crew to time out when they return to the gate. Thus, if a flight waits for 2 hours 59 minutes, then returns to the gate, the crew day limits are re-calculated. You can bet at the end of the day they will go illegal. OBTW, reserve crews are finite as well.

Perhaps we can get Kate to do the arithmetic for us. Until then, good luck getting anywhere during the next snowstorm. Oh, I almost forgot. I noticed that 3 for 3 of Kate’s advertisers were lawyers on the site. Hmmm, curious. All this to fix a problem that historically affected less than 1/10th of 1% of daily flights. Amazing.

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2 comments on “As predicted, airlines forced to cancel flights rather than risk fines
  1. Rick says:

    I did notice this news and thought what a disaster this is going to be in the future.

    A major hurt locker for aviation in general this entire week. I was in the system in the northeast all week and I can’t tell you how lucky I was to have stuck to a strategy of mid-morning departure times. There is a lot to be said for it. At EWR this morning I commented to check-in how great I felt that everything was “on time”. She said to me “Yeah, but this is Newark”; I said back “Yeah, but it’s still the morning.” She said “Your right!” I know it was “severe clear” conditions, but she did share the same conventional wisdom had a lot of merit.

    Very upsetting for GA this incident today in Austin. Can only speculate how this will lead to hysterical reaction by any number of different groups. Bad day for us.

  2. Rick says:

    One more thought….in my industry, which is a large segment in the consumer product area, a huge piece of out “consumer advocates” are very much connected to law firms. Dialing for dollars.

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