Broken Air Travel System

Cleaning Up Air Travel Messes (CBS)

Thousands of travelers spent their holiday weekend at airports waiting for flights that never took off, or looking for luggage in a sea of some ten-thousand lost bags, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella. Regional airline Comair will need several days to resume a full schedule of flights that were grounded for the busy holiday weekend due to a computer failure, fallout from a winter storm. Customers frustrated from days of delays and cancellations got some relief Sunday when the airline resumed a limited number of flights, a day after all 1,100 of its flights were canceled.

Meanwhile, US Airways started delivering luggage to passengers Sunday after suffering what its chief executive called an “operational meltdown.” US Airways ran two baggage-only flights from Philadelphia to its hub in Charlotte, N.C., as it continued to pare down its mountain of backed-up luggage, caused by severe weather Thursday and large numbers of baggage handlers, ramp workers and flight attendants calling in sick.

Feds to investigate air travel woes (AP- NBC13/Indianapolis)

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has ordered an investigation of Comair and U-S Airways for problems that seriously hampered holiday travel. In a letter to his agency’s inspector general, Mineta says the industry “must learn from the situations.”

Computer and staffing problems canceled over a-thousand flights and sent thousands of pieces of luggage astray over the busy holiday travel period. U-S Airways says about triple the usual number of flight attendants called in sick. The airline says an unusually high number of baggage handlers didn’t show up for work at Philadelphia’s airport. Delta subsidiary Comair says it’ll be back to normal Wednesday. A computer glitch canceled eleven-hundred of its flights on Christmas day.

A federal investigation is too late and, really, unnecessary. The market will solve this one. I know several people that will never fly Independence Air or U.S. Airways again.

I got stranded for several hours at Dulles Airport Thursday afternoon owing to the incompetence of Independence Air, which was showing its flights on-time on its website when, in reality, they had been backed up all day. So, rather than simply showing up three hours later–and alerting my dad to do the same in Atlanta–we both wasted several hours sitting around airports. The same thing happened on the way back yesterday, although the delay was only a little over an hour. It was still somewhat faster than simply driving, as I did over Thanksgiving, but probably more aggravating.

Meanwhile, The Girlfriend got truly hosed by the incompetents at U.S. Airways. Her Thursday morning flight to snowed-in Louisville was not cancelled until late in the evening–one hour at a time. This forced her to sit around Reagan National airport for several hours, since she would not have gotten a refund if the flight took off–even several hours late–without her. To make matters worth, the morons somehow sent her bags on to Louisville even though the flight didn’t go. Several days later, her bags are apparently in Charlotte. Meanwhile, she’s out her Christmas presents and assorted essentials.

One would think retarded monkeys could manage the system more efficiently.

Update: LaShawn Barber, ironically, had her bags lost while she was in Charlotte. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin calls for the end of taxpayer bailouts for mismanaged carriers. Hear, hear.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LB says:

    Thanks for the link, James. Correction: The bags were “misplaced” while in DC, not Charlotte. I was delayed in Charlotte for over an hour, then I had to wait at National Airport for 2 hours until the employees unloaded the bags.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    If only it were simple mismanagement. For the large carriers it’s more a case of failed business model and a corporate culture of years of indifference to the airline business. Check the backgrounds of the UAL CEO’s for the last twenty or so years. And, yes, I know that the large guy with actual airline experience they had as CEO was a total flop. But he was a United man. Why not get somebody from an airline that was actually, say, making money?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Make that LAST guy rather than large guy.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    One of the very worst aspects of the post 9/11 bail-out of the airline industry was that it tended tdisproportionately benefit the most poorly-managed providers. I wrote my Congressman at the time. IIRC I got a form letter back.