Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unintended Consequences of Tarmac Wait Legislation

The US government enacted legislation that would penalize airlines for letting planes sit on the tarmac for more than three hours. That was in response to a spate of problems with several airlines and exceedingly long waits to take off from airports without proper facilities for such delays.

Well, the airlines are turning around and saying that instead of waiting out delays, they'll simply cancel the flights and cause the passengers to rebook.
Under new federal guidelines that take effect next month, airlines can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger if a plane is stuck on the tarmac for longer than three hours.

“How can they say there is nothing wrong with having someone sit on a seat and run out of water and everything and sit on there for three, four, five hours? That's ridiculous,” Kelly said.

With the new fines, a delayed MD-80 could cost American Airlines close to $4 million, and a fine for a full 757 could cost more than $5 million.

“It's unavoidable that more flights will be canceled to avoid fines,” said American Airlines spokesman Steve Schlachter. “It's one of the unintended consequences of a bill that has no flexibility.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Department said airlines can avoid fines by doing a better job of scheduling flights and crews.

"Carriers have it within their power to schedule their flights more realistically, to have spare aircraft and crews available to avoid cancellations" and to rebook passengers when there are cancellations, said Bill Mosley, a department spokesman.

Frequent flier Dave Wooldridge said he plans to punish airlines that cancel flights by taking his business elsewhere.
The airlines are making mistake to cancel the flights to punish passengers who have no control over flight schedules, weather, or other delays that can lead to planes sitting on tarmacs waiting to take off, but yet it might be a financially prudent one where flights are chronically delayed. It apparently would be cheaper to cancel the flight than to incur the penalties.

The government enacted an unworkable solution to a problem of its own creation; the reason that planes will move back from their gates and then sit are to preserve on-time departure rankings and to preserve takeoff and landing slots at the airports.

It would take a comprehensive look at how those metrics are used and calculated to see that it would be better to measure on-time departure from the gate, but from when the plane takes off. Show the spread of time between the gate departure and the takeoff to see just how much time is built in to schedules by the airlines due to congestion and too many planes trying to get through inadequate infrastructure.

No comments: