Sunday, April 13, 2008

This year's airport experience

I noticed Jim Kunstler's most recent post at The Daily Grunt chronicles his problems with flight delays (The airlines are dying):
It was not a good week to be at the mercy of America's floundering air travel program. The price of aviation fuel is killing them. They can't fire any more employees or shed anymore pension obligations. There is no elasticity left in the system. Coming back from Denver yesterday, the chaos at the concourse gates was impressive. Nobody knew when or if a given flight would board, and they certainly didn't post any realistic information on the high-def screens at every gate. When asked for updates, the harried gate agents could offer none. So much for computer wizardry. It is interesting to see how passively the public accepts this. For now, they slump like war refugees in the blow-molded plastic seats, numb with fatigue, anxiety, and disappointment. But I wonder if there will be riots in the concourses sometime later this year.
I don't think my experience was quite as bleak as his, but there was at least a parallel. Both ways, I faced flight delays, although those delays were due to weather - not surprising as early spring tends to produce quite a variety of severe weather possibilities. What I did notice was that it was damn difficult to get a straight answer as to when my flights would board, and that those lovely high-def screens continued to post the wrong information or sometimes contradictory information (depending on whether you were looking at a screen in a lobby or at your gate). My own recent trip, for example, was notable in that the screen at my gate persisted in informing us that our flight was "on time" even as I boarded that flight 50 minutes after it was supposed to arrive. The ability for the airlines to communicate with its passengers was indeed underwhelming.

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