Yesterday Chris Elliott, a noted consumer advocate and travel blogger … who you should all be reading … wrote a blog post entitled ‘Are airlines bending the truth about weather delays?’, which got me thinking about all my delayed and canceled flights.
I’m not going to go into the rules surrounding passenger compensation, or lack there of, for delays and cancellations and the implications of airlines changing the official reason for these events, as suggested, you should read Chris’ post ‘Are airlines bending the truth about weather delays?’, for that.
What I am going into are two instances Chris’ post reminded me of where airlines blamed a flight delay and flight cancellation on weather when in reality it was apparent weather was not involved. Both situations left me frustrated at the time, but now looking back I find myself laughing over the absurdity of airlines blaming the situations on weather
The cancellation instance involved a United Express Flight, operated by SkyWest, flying from San Francisco to Sacramento. The flight kept being delayed when the gate agent announced the flight was cancelled due to weather. After a few moments I found out the inbound aircraft was arriving from Santa Barbara and that the aircraft was on the ground at the airport there. Another quick check of the weather between Santa Barbara and San Francisco for the previous day and the weather for the coming 12 hours, showed clear skies, no turbulence and unlimited visibility. When I presented this information to the Gate Agent and asked how the cancellation was weather related they excused themselves and called the police saying I was looking and ‘sensitive information.’ The police came, I showed them the info I had from public online sites for tracking aircraft and the weather available publicly from NOAA’s National Weather Service. The officers apologized for the inconvenience and left.
This left me really annoyed with the SkyWest gate agent. I started to call United’s corporate communications folks to ask them to comment on being blatantly lied to by United Express staff, in front of the staff, and what a surprise I was magically placed on another flight to Sacramento leaving a few moments later and handed a voucher for a free round trip flight.
If the gate agents were going to claim “weather” they should have spent 30 seconds to find out if that reason was plausible. Why the aircraft never made it to San Francisco I have no idea.
The second situation, which really makes me laugh, goes back to the days of Northwest Airlines. While waiting for a flight from New York’s JFK to San Francisco, via Minneapolis, I was seated facing a window overlooking the Boeing 757 at our departure gate, when two mechanics showed up, popped open the starboard side engine cowling and began working on the engine. The mechanics began replacing hoses, and inspecting the engine with flashlights. As the mechanics worked on the engine, in plain view of everyone waiting to board the flight, the gate agent keyed up the microphone for the public address system and announced that our flight was going to be significantly delayed due to weather.
Airlines can blame many things on weather, even when weather is not involved, and reasonably expect to get away with that excuse … however … when two mechanics have an engine cowling open and are replacing parts of the engine in full view of all the passengers waiting to board the flight, it is just brazen for an airline gate agent to try and blame the delay on weather. Mechanics worked on the engine, at the gate, for roughly three hours. We boarded the flight around thirty minutes after the mechanics closed up the engine and disappeared from view.
I am sure some of you have some funny, or at least frustrating, stories of airlines being less that transparent (lying right to your face) with delays and cancellations. I’d love to hear your stories.