Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Airline Delays or Cancellations: Which is Worse?

According to a report released by the United States Department of Transportation, new federal rules that penalize airlines for delays of three hours or longer on airport tarmacs appear to be working -- such delays have gone down since the new rules went into effect nine months ago.

Makes sense to some degree.   The "tarmac delay" rule  - formally known as "Enhancing Airliner Passenger Protections" - penalizes airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for violations.

That's the good news.

Troubling is what some industry observers see as an end-run of the "tarmac delay" rule.  The theory goes like this: airlines simply cancel flights at risk of being delayed three or more hours to avoid the gigantic fine for delays.  One report contends that, "[i]n fact, the cancellation rate at the nation's major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect."

"They’ve exchanged inconvenience for a relatively few number of people for an inconvenience for a tremendous number of people," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, a passengers advocacy group.

Why any of these issues are "legal" issues as opposed to purely customer service issues is an open question.

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