The 7 day flight delay
An airport is not a place where you can come away with much faith in human decency.
Just consider what happened at JFK for one week in late June and early July.
A Scottish discount carrier with the funny name of FlyGlobeSpan was scheduled on June 28 to depart from JFK airport and fly to Ireland.
It took a week to depart. The most galling part? The airline refused to rebook its passengers on flights served by other airlines.
Here's the skinny:
An engine problem--apparently caused by a lightning strike--prevented a plane from ever taking to the skies. FlyGlopeSpan only offers service on this route on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. As this was a Thursday night departure, FlyGlobeSpan didn't want to rebook the 240 passengers on another flight until its next scheduled departure.
The Scottish airline could have sent a rescue aircraft from the U.K. But, says the airline, regulations about how much time the crew needs to rest between flights meant that it would not have taken off any earlier than the time when the aircraft was expected to be repaired.
The airline put passengers up for the night. Another flight attempt was made the next day, but the plane wasn't yet ready for take-off. The airline put up passengers for another night, but refused to rebook them on the flights served by other airlines.
On Saturday, Glasgow airport closed because of an attempted car bombing.
As most of FlyGlobeSpan's planes and staff are headquartered in Glasgow, chaos erupted. Passengers at JFK airport say they were unable to receive information about the status of their flight. Eventually, the airline instructed its agents to begin sending its customers home via other airlines.
While the length of the delay was unusual, FlyGlobeSpan has received a lot of complaints from passengers, who have posted their gripes about a variety of flights on a variety of routes at the website AirlineQuality.com. (That website, by the way, is a good place for you to post comments on the quality of any flight you might take on any airline.)
This past weekend, FlyGlobeSpan finally issued an apology for its failure to keep its passengers informed of developments. It also apologized for failing to promptly rebook them on another airline's outbound flight when their own plane was clearly unable to fly. Lastly, it offered to reimburse passengers who used their own funds to book flights out of JFK.
Get free driving directions by phone
Starting Monday July 16, in New York City, L.A. and San Francisco, you can get driving directions delivered to your cell phone via a text message. Here's how it works: You first call 347/328-4667 ("Directions" spelled on a keypad). Next, say where you are, whether it's a street address or an intersection. Then you just name your destination, which can be a street address, intersection, or business name, such as Starbucks. You'll immediately receive a text-message with point-to-point directions. The free service is from new outfit called Dial Directions and the info comes from MapQuest. Luckily, you don't need a fancy smart phone to use the service. Any dumb phone will do. Plus, outside of your cell phone provider's charges, there's no cost for getting information via text message. I tested the service and found that the point-to-point directions were easy-to-follow. One downside is that when you call 347/328-4667, you have to talk to a computer instead of a real person. If you hate that type of experience, you won't like this service. But I found that the computer understood words with a high degree of accuracy. (Cartoon: DialDirections.com) Related: More tips on maximizing your phone. Earlier: Jet Airways is launching U.S. service with great economy-class seats. Virgin Atlantic is launching U.S. service with hip new planes.
Tell the Feds your views on the bumping game
Have you ever been involuntarily bumped when a flight was oversold? Well, it's time to speak up. The Department of Transportation is seeking comments from the public on its airline compensation rules for passengers who are involuntarily bumped. Which of the following policies is best? --Leave the current compensation limits in place. These limits are $200 for a short delay for rebooking (meaning two hours) and $400 for a long delay (meaning more than four hours). For more explanation of the current rules, see below. --Boost the current compensation limits to $290 for short delays in rebooking and $580 for long delays. --Boost the compensation limits to $400 for short delays in rebooking and $800 for long delays. --Boost the limits to $624 for short delays in rebooking and $1,248 for longer delays --End all limits and make compensation for short delays equal to the value of the ticket, or double the value of the ticket for long delays with the payment doubling for longer delays Here is further explanation of the current rules. The Department of Transportation requires compensation for passengers who relinquish seats voluntarily. There's no federal standard for that compensation--you're only guaranteed something, usually a flight voucher. For passengers who are involuntarily bumped on domestic flights, the rules are as follows: If you're on another flight within an hour, you get nothing; within two hours, the airline pays you the equivalent of your one-way fare ($200 max); more than two hours later, you get 200 percent reimbursement ($400 max). Here is the government version of its rules. You must contact the Feds directly if you want to voice your opinion. Comments posted to this blog will not be forwarded to the government. For step-by-step instructions in how to post your comment, read on... Contact the Feds using this two-step process. First, find and download the proposal by clicking here (http://dms.dot.gov/search/document.cfm?documentid=125513&docketid;=9325). Then, to submit a comment visit this webpage: https://dms.dot.gov/submit/ The instructions on this page are somewhat misleading. You do not have to "register" to post a comment. Simply click on the "continue" button. In the field that says, "docket number", copy and paste this docket number: OST-01-9325. You will see other fields with confusing terms. Just ignore them and leave them as they are. Next, you must provide at least one of the following: Your email address, your phone number with area code, or your complete postal address. You do not have to fill out any additional information. You can leave the other fields blank. Next, click "continue." You should see a screen that says, "Comment." Type your comment in this window. Be specific in saying which of the five proposals you think is best by spelling out the proposal. For example, you might say, "I support leaving the current rules in place." or "I support raising the limits to $624 for short delays in rebooking and $1,248 for longer delays." Those are just examples. You can disagree. Feel free to word your own opinion--whatever it is. Earlier: Tell the Feds your views on passport rules. (Hat tip to Volker Poelzl and his new Transitions Abroad blog Wide World Cafe.)
Kayak.com gets a tune-up
If you haven't used the metasearch site Kayak in a while, you may like some of the new features that the site has added. When you search for a fare now, you have a choice of views. Sure, you can still view the traditional list of fares from lowest to highest. But you can also click on the word "matrix" and see a grid of fares ranked by airline. The matrix makes it easy to discover which airline offers the lowest price for nonstop, one-stop, and two-stop flights. (This type of matrix display was pioneered by Orbitz.) If your dates are flexible, you should click on the word "chart" to see average fares across a period of several days, displayed--surprise!--on a chart. Say you're shopping for a flight from Washington, D.C., to Louisville departing in a few weeks. After you enter the cities and dates at Kayak, a line graph shows the average fares available for that route over about 30 days. This chart hands travelers one more tool to find the best deal online. Related: Why You Should Kayak Before Booking a Cruise. Fun factoid: The founder of Kayak, Paul English, is donating his mathematical expertise to the Harvard Medical School in a project to help improve the efficiency of hospitals in Rwanda. He is applying to the problems of medical data the lessons he has learned while fine-tuning fare searches. [Source: Wired.com's Epicenter blog.]
Today's travel intel
Virgin's new low-cost U.S. airline will take to the skies next month. Tickets will go on sale shortly. The new airline's hub will be in San Francisco. Expected destinations are New York City, San Diego, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. [This Associated Press story via USAToday.com] JetBlue may allow passengers to send emails and text-messages for free from their own phones while airborne, starting within the next several months, according to this story in the Financial Times. Hotwire is waiving its $6 fee for booking airfares this summer. Cruise news: Carnival has debuted a new website, FunShipIsland.com, which shows videos and illustrations of shipboard activities and on-land excursions. The videos include cute shots of passengers playing with dolphins. Rail travel in Europe is getting easier. Starting this summer, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland will make it easier to hop from the high-speed rail line of one country to another. For example, from now on, if you miss a connection between the major high-speed trains of any of these two countries, you can hop on the next train, regardless of the type of ticket you have. For info on buying tickets, see RailEurope.com.