Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Airlines: What is an act of God?

The recent snowstorms that hit Europe, and now the US northeast, are noteworthy not just for the severity of the storms, but even more for the length of time it took for the airlines to move stranded passengers to their destinations.
It is getting to be a new standard that if a bunch of flights get canceled because of a storm, it takes almost a week to take care of the backlog of passengers. It is becoming commonplace for those passengers to spend days and days in airports.
In addition to being unacceptable, those kind of delays are sure to prompt corrective action from governments.
It would seem to me that it would be in the airlines' best interests to fix the problem before Congress comes up with a solution. They might also consider that if the problem is not fixed, potential passengers may think twice about flying at all if it involves the risk of a long delay in an airport.
All of these delays at moving large numbers of stranded passengers are the direct result of the airlines' recent efforts to get profitable by reducing the number of planes, flights and seats.
It used to be that if your flight got canceled because of a storm, you could catch another flight out the next morning -- but that was because there were always empty seats on those flights.
Now that there are no empty seats, it is difficult to catch a later flight. That trend has made flying more difficult for passengers in a number of ways, but the storm backups are the worst.
And this problem raises a question. The airlines do not have to pay for hotel accommodations or refund ticket prices if flights are delayed due to an "act of God."
But is it an "act of God" if those delays drag on for a week because the airlines have reduced the overall number of flights?
The airlines can blame God for the snowstorm, but it seems to me that after a day or two, the problem has moved out of "act of God" and squarely into "act of airline."
At that point, I think the airlines should spring for hotels for all these stranded passengers. It is unthinkable that all these people should be camping out in airports for a week.


Blogger Diana Davis said...

On one hand it's not "ok" to talk about God, but then on the other hand, if it's going to cost someone MONEY then you can sure blame it on Him!

December 28, 2010 at 12:45 PM 

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