FAA, airlines, airports: bad storms a-brewin’

Don’t come here: that’s the subtext of the message that US airlines, airports, and even the FAA are sending this spring as they near a summer that by all predictions, expert and layman, is going to be just gosh awful. The airlines are hating it, because the more unhappy campers there are on the plane, the louder they cry for ‘passenger rights’ laws that would do helpful things like take them back to the terminals and keep them from flying to their supposed destinations.

Some of the big players such as LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport, where officials are telling flyers to prepare themselves for the worst, are outright saying, go somewhere else”. all-flights-cancelled.jpg One LAX official, Paul Haney, said, “this is the summer to do comparison shopping, not just for fares and schedules, but for airports” Haney suggested people think about using one of the agency’s other airports, but not LAX. That’s sort of like the old malapropism attributed to famed malapropist Yogi Berra (“when you get to a fork in the road, take it”) of a popular New York City eatery: “that place is so crowded, nobody goes there any more”.
The FAA’s Marion Blakey, never a mincer of words, said she expects flights delays in the summer of 2007 to be worse than the worst summer in recent memory, 2006. Speaking a day after the National Weather Service warned that this year’s storm season will be one of the worst yet, multiple_tornadoes.jpg
Blakey unveiled a plan to give airlines a choice when bad weather shuts down an airport or airspace sector: the airline can decide if it wants to hold flights on the runway or if it will accept an alternative routing, one that takes it around or below the ‘convective activity’.

This may be a Hobsonian choice: sit on the runway and antagonise passengers, or fly real low or way out of the way and burn up whatever profits in extra fuel and operating costs. Still, it is more collaborative than ordering a flight to develop a long-term relation with the tarmac. Blakey also rolled out a truly nifty piece of computer software, something the FAA dubbed ‘adaptive compression’. This is not an injury to the lower back; instead it is a program that tracks delays of flights headed toward major airports and then calculates which flights are delayed so much that they won’t get to the airport in time to use their scheduled landing slots or their space in a landing queue. It then finds a flight headed to that airport, a flight that’s not delayed (yet), and gives the unused slot or landing time to that flight. This way, the runway gets used by someone who needs it. But Blakey says that not even the FAA can do anything about the weather.

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