Winter weather and pandemic-related staffing issues are creating a nightmare for travelers.
Thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed – or delayed and then canceled – over the holiday weekend and now into this week.
On Tuesday, more than 1,000 flights across the country were canceled, while thousands more experienced delays. When we checked late Tuesday evening, FlightAware was already showing more than 650 flight cancelations for Wednesday and it’s a good bet that more will be canceled overnight.
We hope you are not caught up in the mess.
“Artfully Concealed” Knives
TSA has some alarming images and statistics about ‘artfully concealed’ and not-so-artfully concealed weapons that people try to bring through airport checkpoints.
Incredibly alarming are the knives discovered on Monday sewn inside a kid’s stuffed animal at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
“The stuffed animal, which appeared to be a black bear in a space-age technology suit and cape, triggered an alarm as it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine,” TSA said in a statement. “The X-ray image indicated something concealed inside the bear and upon closer inspection, TSA officers noticed that the back of the bear showed signs it had been re-stitched.”
When the stitching was removed, two knives were found inside the bear’s stuffing.
The mother of the boy carrying the toy told officials that the bear is a comfort toy for her son. But TSA says the mom will likely face a Federal civil penalty for this violation.
Meanwhile, right before the Christmas holiday, TSA shared that so far this year its officers have found more than 5,700 firearms at security checkpoints. That is a 20-year record.
Whether or not the power outage that caused British Airways to cancel all flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airport last weekend was caused by a worker pulling the wrong plug, the airline is looking at perhaps $100 million in compensation payouts to thousands of passengers whose travelers were disrupted by the snafu.
The rule outlines the compensation airlines must pay passengers for flights that are delayed or canceled and covers scheduled flights to or from airports in EU countries (as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and some other non-EU regions) as well as flights to and from the EU purchased on U.S. carriers but operated by a EU carrier.
“If it’s within the airlines’ reasonable control, then compensation kicks in, which can max out at 600 euros,” said Hobica, “Getting paid is another thing, and can involve paperwork and waiting or negotiating, which is why there are a half dozen firms that will do the work for you, for a cut of the money owed.”
But at least those passengers have the law on their side.
On US, Canadian, Middle Eastern, or other non-Euro airline flights that are delayed or canceled due to IT outages, mechanical issues, crew delays or other issues within an airline’s control, passengers are legally due “zilch, nada, nothing. Nothing mandated by law” said Hobica,
That doesn’t mean passengers always get nothing, though.
Policies outlining what services are provided to a customer waiting in the airport vary by airline and are contained in their contracts of carriage, advises consumer organization Flyersrights, noting that the contracts of carriage generally leave it to the airline’s discretion to distribute meal vouchers and hotel accommodations.
Delta Air Lines outlines its policies on situations such as delays, cancellations, diversions and bumped passengers in its Customer Commitment document.
For example, the airline promises to “provide hotel accommodations at Delta contracted facilities, based on availability, if you are inconvenienced overnight while away from your home or destination due to a delay, misconnect or cancellation within Delta’s control.”
In August 2016, the carrier went the extra step of offering $200 in travel vouchers to customers whose flights were cancelled or who were delayed by more than three hours due to a system wide IT incident.
United Airlines spokeswoman Maddie King said the company strives to provide customers with flexible travel options when there are unanticipated interruptions to operations.
“We actively assist in rebooking customers and often provide compensation for customers who experience extensive delays that are within our control,” said King, “During severe interruptions we will provide customers with a travel waiver to change their flights at no cost. (United’s policies on flight delays and cancellations are posted here.)
And JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights outlines, in perhaps the industry’s most straightforward language, what customers can expect from the airline “when things do not go as planned,” including specific credit amounts to be issued for cancellations and delays.
On its website, the U.S. Department of Transportation confirms that “for domestic itineraries, airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled,” but does note a few situations that are covered by laws, including situations involving involuntary bumping of passengers, in which case required compensation can reach 400 percent of a one-way fare, but not more than $1,350.
As result of the recent United Airlines ‘incident’ involving a man being dragged of a flight in an involuntary bumping situation, United Airlines has issued policy changes which include the promise to offer passengers up to $10,000 to voluntary give up their seats in an effort to avoid having future overbooked flight situations.
Likewise, Delta has stated that it will offer up to $9,950 to passengers who volunteer to give up their seats on overbooked flights, said Zach Honig, editor at ThePointsGuy.com, “Though I wouldn’t be surprised if we never hear of the airline paying out compensation approaching that amount. Chances are enough travelers will volunteer long before the compensation offer gets well into the thousands.”
(My story about airline compensation for ‘inconvenienced’ passengers first appeared on NBC News.
Winter storm Jupiter and assorted ice storms around the country are wreaking havoc with air travel this week and there are travel alerts galore from the airlines.
If you’ve got a trip planned, be sure to check your airlines’ website, sign up for travel alerts and subscribe to the Twitter feeds of your airline and of the airports you’re starting from – and heading for.
Here are some of the travel alerts posted as of Thursday evening, Jan. 12.
Most airlines will waive changes fees and the difference in the price of the ticket if you book new travel to or from the affected cities in the same cabin in the next week or so and/or refund the price of your ticket if you choose not to travel. Check your airlines’ website for details.
Alaska Airlines has an alert posted for travel to or from Omaha, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and St. Louis for January 13-15.
There are at least 17 cities affected American Airlines’ travel alert for January 15-16, including
Buffalo, New York (BUF)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CID)
Central Wisconsin, Wisconsin (CWA)
Des Moines, Iowa (DSM)
Dubuque, Iowa (DBQ)
Green Bay, Wisconsin (GRB)
Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR)
Kansas City, Missouri (MCI)
La Crosse, Wisconsin (LSE)
Madison, Wisconsin (MSN)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (MKE)
Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota (MSP)
Omaha, Nebraska (OMA)
Rochester, Minnesota (RST)
Sioux City, Iowa (SUX)
Traverse City, Michigan (TVC)
Wichita, Kansas (ICT)
The travel alert for Delta Air Lines also covers 17 cities, for travel January 13-15:
Baltimore (BWI), Bloomington, IL (BMI), Charleston, WV (CRW), Cincinnati, OH (CVG), Columbus, OH (CMH), Dayton, OH (DAY), Indianapolis, IN (IND), Kansas City, MO (MCI), Oklahoma City, OK (OKC), Peoria, IL (PIA), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Springfield, MO (SGF), St. Louis, MO (STL), Tulsa, OK (TUL), Washington Dulles, DC (IAD), Washington Reagan, DC (DCA) and Wichita, KS (ICT)
JetBlue’s travel waiver covers Cleveland (CLE), Philadelphia (PHL), Pittsburgh (PIT) and the airports in the D.C. metro area for travel January 13-15.
More than 20 cities are affected by Southwest Airlines’ travel alert for flights scheduled between January 13 and 16 (dates vary by city) and United Airlines has a travel alert posted for flights scheduled January 13 -15 to for from these cities:
Amarillo, TX (AMA)
Charleston, WV (CRW)
Charlottesville, VA (CHO)
Cincinnati, OH (CVG)
Columbus, OH (CMH)
Dayton, OH (DAY)
Evansville, IN (EVV)
Indianapolis, IN (IND)
Kansas City, MO (MCI)
Lubbock, TX (LBB)
Oklahoma City, OK (OKC)
Paducah, KY (PAH)
Peoria, IL (PIA)
Springfield, IL (SPI)
Springfield, MO (SGF)
St. Louis, MO (STL)
Tulsa, OK (TUL)
Wichita, KS (ICT)
If you can rearrange your plans and stay out of the path of the storm and out of the airports that will be experiencing delays and cancellations, do it!