Is this the worst week for air travelers since 9/11?

Victor/Shutterstock
Victor/Shutterstock

From bankruptcies to terrorist attacks, air travelers have seen it all in the last decade or so. But I can’t think of a week that’s been jam-packed with so much bad news for airline passengers since 2001. Maybe you can, but stick with me for a moment while I review the list.

It isn’t just the sequestration problems that are causing unforeseen slowdowns — it’s a confluence of other events, some related to the mandatory cuts, but many not.
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Hartford tarmac stranding doesn’t justify new laws

The Halloween weekend stranding of more than 1,000 airline passengers at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., brought the tarmac delay activists out in full force again, pushing for new laws that they claim would prevent lengthy ground delays.

The circumstances were admittedly dreadful. On Oct. 29, air traffic controllers diverted 28 flights to Hartford after a freak snowstorm hammered the region. Many planes were grounded for hours in the blizzard, unable to reach the terminal. Supplies of food and water dwindled. Toilets became clogged. Tempers flared.
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Spirit Airlines tells passenger who can’t fit into seat to stand

Katie Anderson’s son, Brooks, is 6′ 7″. The average economy class seat “pitch” on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 — the distance between seats on an aircraft — is between 30 and 31 inches, hardly enough room for a big guy.

When he flew between Chicago and Fort Myers, Fla., before Christmas, he squeezed his XL frame into one of Spirit’s tiny seats for takeoff, but was asked to stand for more than two hours, according to his mother.

Says Anderson,

They would not give him a bulkhead or exit row seat. He does not fit in a regular seat. His height prohibits this.

He is not overweight. It wouldn’t help to have two seats like an overweight person. This is more like a handicap. He can’t lose height.

Asking a passenger to stand for the whole flight is highly unusual, but not illegal.
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Trade groups want their piece of pie in the sky

fire in the skyNo one would claim that any of the new travel-related laws scheduled to take effect in 2010 are game-changers for travelers. They’re relatively minor: a new credit card rule here, a new airport security policy there.

But what kind of law would really improve your travel experience next year?

Instead of asking readers for their opinions, as I do every week, I decided to hand the mike to the trade organizations in Washington that represent various parts of the travel industry. Specifically, I wanted to know which law they’d like to see passed in 2010 that they think would most benefit travelers.

The short answer? Most trade groups want laws authorizing Congress to spend more money, which they say will help us.
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Victim of seatback police: “It felt like we had somehow landed in a World War II movie”

seatsBeware of the airline seatback cops. They recently nabbed Cheryl Smith, and they could be coming for you.

What do these airborne officers want from you? Your total obedience, and an empty seat pocket in front of you. More or less.

Never mind that what they’re asking for makes no sense, whatsoever.
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