Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Canceled! Airlines scrap more flights than ever recorded

NEW YORK — The relentless snow and ice storms this winter have led to the highest number of flight cancellations in more than 25 years, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

U.S. airlines have canceled more than 75,000 domestic flights since Dec. 1, including more than 14,000 this week. That's 5.5 percent of the 1.37 million flights scheduled during that period, according to calculations based on information provided by flight tracking site FlightAware.

It's the highest total number and highest percent of cancellations since at least the winter of 1987-1988, when the Department of Transportation first started collecting cancellation data.

"This year is off to a brutal start for airlines and travelers," said FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker. "Not only is each storm causing tens of thousands of cancellations, but there's been a lot of them."

Mother Nature isn't entirely to blame. Cost-cutting measures and new government regulations have made airlines more likely to cancel flights and leave fliers scrambling to reach their destinations.

Making things worse for travelers this winter, airlines have been cutting unprofitable flights and packing more passengers into planes. That's been great for their bottom line but has created a nightmare for passengers whose flights are canceled due to a storm. Other planes are too full to easily accommodate the stranded travelers. Many must wait days to secure a seat on another flight.

Carol Cummings, 23, was trying to fly Thursday on United Airlines from the Washington, D.C., area to Los Angeles to visit a high school friend for the long holiday weekend. The flight was canceled and Cummings was automatically rebooked for a flight on Monday — the day she was supposed to return home. After two and a half hours on hold, United offered to move the trip to another weekend — for an extra $150 — or to refund her ticket.

"I am annoyed and surprised at the lack of customer concern I experienced," she said. Cummings is waiting for her refund.

Airlines are quicker to cancel flights these days, sometimes a day in advance of a storm. It's rarer to see planes parked at the edge of runways for hours, hoping for a break in the weather, or passengers sleeping on airport cots and cobbling together meals from vending machines.

The shift in strategy came in response to new government regulations, improvements to overall operations and because canceling quickly reduces expenses.

In May 2010, a new DOT rule took effect prohibiting airlines from keeping passengers on the tarmac for three hours or more. So, airlines now choose to cancel blocks of flights to avoid potential fines of up to $27,500 per passenger or $4.1 million for a typical plane holding 150 fliers.

Additionally, the government implemented a new rule at the start of January, increasing the amount of rest pilots need. That's made it harder to operate an irregular schedule, such as those seen after a storm. In order to have enough well-rested pilots, airlines cancel more flights.

"This is another behavior being forced upon them by government regulations," says Andrew Davis, an airline analyst at T. Rowe Price.

Not all of the cancellations are tied to regulations. Airlines have learned in recent years that while a large number of early cancelations might cause short-term pain, it helps them better reset after the weather clears.

But the sting isn't as bad as you might think.

Jim Corridore, an airline analyst with S&P Capital IQ, notes that United also saved millions in fuel and salaries by not having to fly the canceled flights. Some level of storm-related expenses is already built into airline budgets.

"We're not going to have this type of winter, every winter," Corridore says.

Comments
Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

Closer Alex Colome was not traded by the Rays to the Cardinals on Tuesday night.But he appeared to be either prepping for or having some fun with the possibility.On his alexcolome37 verified Instagram account, Colome started following the Cardinals o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Doug Jones wins – and Florida reacts

Doug Jones wins – and Florida reacts

Reaction to Doug Jones' victory over Roy Moore:God Bless America! ���� https://t.co/3ahIcK0BLE— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) December 13, 2017Steve Bannon is a cancer. Good people in Alabama were the first dos...
Updated: 1 hour ago

AP Top News at 4:49 a.m. EST

AP Top News at 4:49 a.m. EST
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Gillibrand got a fight she wants after Trump's fiery tweet

Gillibrand got a fight she wants after Trump's fiery tweet

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand got a fight she wants after President Donald Trump attacked her in a provocative tweet that claimed she'd begged him for campaign contributions and would "do anything" for them
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Analysis: Trump bets on Moore and suffers stinging defeat

Analysis: Trump bets on Moore and suffers stinging defeat

Analysis: Trump bets on Moore and suffers stinging defeat
Updated: 19 minutes ago

Greek high court to rule on Russian bitcoin suspect's fate

Greece's Supreme Court will rule on whether to allow the extradition of a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin
Updated: 22 minutes ago

3rd trial for mom in 'Baby Lollipops' killing nearing an end

Closing arguments are set in the murder trial of a Florida mother accused of beating her toddler son to death in a case that riveted the Miami area decades ago
Updated: 24 minutes ago

Ex-king Michael's coffin arrives in Romania ahead of funeral

A coffin carrying the body of the late Romanian King Michael I has arrived at Bucharest's airport from Switzerland ahead of his funeral this weekend
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Franken, soon-to-be-gone, but back at Senate job

Franken, soon-to-be-gone, but back at Senate job

Al Franken is still doing his day job in the Senate despite announcing his resignation last week amid sexual harassment allegations and vanishing support from fellow Democrats
Updated: 27 minutes ago

Boys basketball: St. Petersburg 62, Countryside 61

CLEARWATER – St. Petersburg already had Serrel Smith, an Ole Miss signee who is the reigning Pinellas County player of the year.The lineup became even better in the summer with the addition of Tampa Catholic transfers Tai and Terrell Strickland...
Updated: 27 minutes ago