In addition to health and safety requirements, there are some further practical problems when flying during COVID-19.
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Mechanical, Equipment Swap, Delays
Flying Allegiant was always a problem in the past for three reasons. Its safety record was abhorrent as exposed in a 60 Minutes episode, though fatal safety issues on an airplane are incredibly rare. I didn’t fly Allegiant (nor book anyone on the carrier) because they flew to airports with few options in the event of a mechanical issue and because they had a lot of them. Canceled flights on the carrier would strand travelers for hours, even overnight. It’s no way to run an airline.
Allegiant simply didn’t have the physical assets (spare planes, equipment, replacements), that could be swapped for another flight. This happens all the time on the major carriers. A plane not scheduled to depart for hours is swapped with a plane that has a mechanical issue giving mechanics more time to solve it. Regardless, passengers are on their way despite a delay.
But in the time of COVID-19, every airline is more or less Allegiant. The schedule is too thin.
Reductions in schedule have made the slightest flight issue an overnight affair. Instead of hopping on the next one, passengers are left with few to no options.
Case in point, I had a business meeting in Colorado this week. I chose to fly RSW-CLT-DEN because the direct flights were overpriced compared to one-stop service on American, a carrier I loved then left.
Following a mechanical delay, I missed my connection in Charlotte – a story for another post – and found myself there for 7.5 hours while I awaited my replacement flight. Options on other carriers were sold out, and due to few flights running, even another connection to Denver would have yielded just a 30-minute gain but put me at a risk of another airport’s problems.
The reduction of schedule took American from several flights daily to Denver International Airport, down to an 11:30 AM, 7 pm, and 8:30 pm only.
Airlines have banked flights for as long as I can remember, but in so doing, they now have very few options when things don’t go as planned. For business people that are flying, for people that need to fly to care for a sick relative, or even for those that just want to get away for their own sanity, it’s a problem. Airlines do not have suffieicent elasticity in their operations for anything to go wrong right now.
COVID-19 Secondary Effects
This is not a direct effect of the spread of COVID-19, it’s a secondary effect. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hasn’t mandated a closure of FAA facilities, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against non-essential air travel to protect the public health of the United States. Lack of flights is a product of those choosing to stay at home, social distance, avoid close contact with others which removed the market for airlines – not travel restrictions by state governments.
Some argue that if you would just wash your hands, wear a mask, and truly quarantine for 14 days fewer people would test positive for COVID-19 and air traffic controllers would be as busy as they ever were. But as there are secondary effects from COVID-19 that don’t have anything to do with healthy choices, there may be secondary effects from scaling back up too.
Rather than spend a Tuesday afternoon in the AMEX Centurion lounge I considered declaring a trip-in-vain and returning to Florida. Rescheduling a meeting is easy and my remaining day in Colorado would have been an exhausting nightmare, at no fault of my own.
While I always budget enough time in my plans for a flying delay, COVID-19 has compounded that issue. But due to minimal flight options, returning to Florida would have netted me about the same result. In a year with few meetings, this one was important and worthwhile continuing.
Others who find themselves in the same situation may want to consider utilizing trip-in-vain cancellation and refund options if significantly delayed without a reasonable alternative.
If and when travelers choose to fly before the industry returns to a full schedule, old problems like mechanical delays become far more difficult in the new environment. Replacement flights are not as readily available as they once were. As travelers return, secondary flight options may not have seats for misconnected passengers compounding issues as airlines passengers return. Airlines might need to consider unbanking flight schedules and including more space between flights to allow for their own mistakes.
What do you think? Should airlines add more flexibility into their schedules given the lack of alternatives?
Lack of spare capacity hung me up earlier in the week flying from Newark to Sao Paulo. The incoming flight was a 787-10 coming in from Amsterdam due to arrive 6 hours before my flight departed — plenty of time. Unfortunately, the landing gear had a problem in AMS and couldn’t take off for 6 hours. So United knew for the better part of the day that my flight wouldn’t go as scheduled, yet had no spare equipment to replace it with. As a result the flight packed flight to Sao Paulo (not a single seat empty) was delayed several hours, and a good part of the plane connecting elsewhere lost their connections during the most difficult time of year to find spare seats on later flights , . . disaster.
Your arguments make no sense. Sorry- the only way airlines can make anything work, especially today when few passengers are traveling, is to bank their hubs. You really do not understand the industry
What kind of business meeting nowadays us making you travel around Christmas time, vs zoom? Why weren’t you able to do this meeting online
Because zoom sucks and it’s better to meet in person
Not only uncertainty is a risk but also getting sick. Reports are that southern California has no ICU beds, even if you offered a million dollars.
There’s a new strain of coronavirus causing Covid-19. The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and other countries have banned flights into the UK.
Self imposed home arrest under solitary confinement is drastic but a good idea.Unlike prison, you have Zoom and computers along with family.
Yesterday I watched the St. Maarten cam as one Jet Blue and one Delta flight suffered crew time outs while they were lined up for departure. It was due to an extremely busy airport overrun with air traffic which caused significant departure delays. I wondered what the options were for those 250 passengers/crew for accommodations and flights off the island in the next few days.
You make a very valid point that options are certainly limited. When irops hit, a considerable amount of patience will be required.
Happy Holidays to you and your lovely family.
This is why China’s social credit score is very important. We should only be saving the people that are useful to society when we have to triage medical care.
So old people and infants are the last in m line. Poor peope, homeless people, people that dont pay any taxes, peope that have not given back to society in anyway, people that belong to the majority class all should be in the back of the line to get any medical care.
We need to have a social credit score. Anti maskers would be left in the parking lot to die.
People have time value that is beyond money. For example, grandparents can take care of young children. If they are dead, then child care costs money.
What is value to the government? Being a high tax bracket taxpayer?
Prisoners are at risk. Should they have priority? Or should they have the least priority?
In all likelihood, there will be a time, maybe in May, where there will be a surplus of vaccine, no takers, and many Covid-19 deaths from the unvaccinated.
There isn’t enough time for dose testing but what if lots of people got a one time 1/4 dose? That might slow down the pandemic. Or might it worsen it because people become lax or the dose is insufficient to build up an immune response?
Go back to the basement, loser.
Many deaths among the unvaccinated?…somebody here has bought into the 90-95% efficacy lie.
NOBODY died in the Pfizer PLACEBO group. ONE person died in the Moderna PLACEBO group. Meanwhile 70-94,000 died in the USA alone – supposedly. Most “cases” were asymptomatic / nothing. A handful of “severe” cases.
Phase 3 was also done from late July-early October for Pfizer/Moderna/Oxford. Deaths were going down and “cases” were low – that is peak immune system time.
Moderna participants were concentrated in Southern States…mostly Texas, Florida, and California. Minimal issues in summer.
The “vaccine” is like a hit of caffeine (antibodies/immune stimulation), when you don’t really need it. Vaccine efficacy won’t be anywhere near 90%….what happens in Dec-Mar? That is the trouble zone.
PS: The Oxford vaccine had ZERO obese individuals and a 65-35 Female/Male split.
Seasonality deception. Geographic deception.
PS2: Southwest direct flight options suck out of Seattle now!
Quasimodo is an accurate name here