March statistics: good overall
Airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours’ duration on domestic flights in March, although there was one tarmac delay of more than four hours on an international flight. This data was gleaned from the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, which was released recently. It is understood that the long tarmac delay, which involved a Bogotá flight, is under investigation by the Department.
All the big US airlines have been required to file complete reports on extended tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Moreover, in 2011, carriers operating international flights mere not entitled to permit tarmac delays at US airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to disembark. The only exceptions to the time limits for domestic and international flights are those involving safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.
Travel light for better treatment
American Airlines has extended preferential boarding to customers flying with small bags or no carry-on bags.
The carrier says that customers not needing to stow a bag in an overhead storage bin will be able to board between the Group 1 and Group 2 boarding queues. Currently, American gives boarding priority to its first class and elite level fliers before moving on to Groups 1 through 4. The carrier adds that it successfully trialed the new process at seven airports earlier this year and in conclusion, it has now rolled out the change system-wide, in an effort to reduce its boarding times.
American cites on-time performance as being a key factor in the airline’s dependability rating: simply put, every minute saved during boarding allows American to push back from the gate earlier, thereby resulting in a more timely departure and arrival.
The other side of the coin also relates to airline behavior. Airline officials reckon that boarding times have increased in the last few years: this is because the airlines have cut back on flights, which in turn makes aircraft more crowded; added to this are charges for checking baggage, which encourages passengers to take their luggage on board the aircraft. The subsequent scenario is not difficult to imagine… less space in the bins can cause tempers to rise.
However, American believes that this initiative should trim around two minutes off the boarding time, which constitutes a useful saving.
In a further announcement, American has said that customers at the gate who decide they’d like to board prior to Group 2 will be able to gate-check their carry-on bag at no charge. Clearly, some fliers may want to benefit from this and move up the queue although the corollary is that these passengers could effectively fly without paying a baggage fee. And, by extension, if more and more travelers decide to gate-check their bag, then that will tie up the check-in staff, to the detriment of the whole operation that is seeking to be more efficient and improve departure times.
Better conditions on the horizon?
Low paid workers within the ground handling sector is not exactly news. Whatis news, though, is when activists start lobbying a city council to improve the working conditions and wages of airport handlers. Exactly this has happened at Philadelphia International, where community activists, along with an inter-faith group, have been trying to secure better conditions for the 1,500 or so workers employed at the airport.
To that end, the POWER group (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) has held a prayer vigil and been vocal in its representations for the staff affected, who are employed by a subcontractor, PrimeFlight Aviation Services, of Nashville.
Part of the problem hinges on the two year lease extension that will allow for a US$734m cash injection at the hub. However, the lease must secure council approval first – and the deadline for this falls at the end of June. Unless that is in place, then airlines would be bereft of a contract and would be able to pull out of the airport with just 30 days’ notice.
Check out the check-in check
Airlines are collecting record baggage fees – this fact has been aired at length in the media. In fact, some 55% of all travelers still check in their luggage, either all or some of the time. These were the findings of a recent survey conducted by The GO Group, an international ground transportation service provider and GO Airport Express, a GO member and Chicago-based ground transportation company that serves O’Hare International and Midway airports.
In the recent survey, more than 570 travelers were questioned on their luggage habits. Just 27% said that they always check in their luggage, while 28% said that they both check in and carry-on bags. A mere 19% admitted that they always carry luggage on board.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the country’s 15 largest carriers collected in total US$3.5bn in bag fees in 2012 as part of their attempts to boost their balance sheets.