The angry traveller – a crusade against airline incompetence

As air-carriers-on-time-trend_resize.gifyou probably already know, the airline industry hasn’t been in the best shape since the 9/11 attacks. With delayed or cancelled flights a growing problem in the US again (and a direct view of the data as compiled by the US government) after years of steady or improving tardiness, flyers have more to gripe about than probably any time in the past.

With the extreme delays some flights/airlines/airports have suffered lately – such as JetBlue’s 11 hour JFK delays and American Airlines’ 9 hour Austin delays – some passengers have had just enough of this crap, and one in particular has taken steps to force the airlines to handle these delays better.

Like thousands of American Airlines passengers last Dec. 29, Kate Hanni and her family were stuck aboard a jet for hours, out on the runway. They were hungry, bored, mad and, in the case of Flight 1348, sick of the smell wafting through the cabin from the lavatories.

When the ordeal finally ended, some passengers from the 67 separate American flights – which each spent at least three hours stranded – e-mailed or called in their complaints to the airline. Some vented on blogs. Most grumbled and went about their business.

. . .

Yesterday, Ms. Hanni staged what she called a “strand-in” near the Capitol in Washington, in a bid to keep up momentum for the get-off-the-plane legislation she wants enacted, over objections from the airline industry. A long tent was outfitted to resemble the interior of an airline, and wings were drawn on its exterior in duct tape. She offered long-shot invitations to members of Congress to experience confinement, replete with smelly portable toilets Ms. Hanni and fellow volunteers had rounded up. For the record, American said Flight 1348’s toilets never overflowed.

Ms. Hanni has become a force for change in the airline industry. She has worked with her Congress-critter on passing a flyers’ Bill of Rights. She has been in contact with dissatisfied travellers all around the country. She has even set up a web site to get this information out and to let people share their tales of woe. It’s an interesting look at how a dissatisfied customer became an advocate of consumer rights, and worth the 5-10 minutes you’ll need to read the full New York Times article. Be sure to check out the picture on the first page as well.

[tags]American Airlines, Airline woes, Travel delays, Kate Hanni, Flyers’ rights[/tags]