US Airways announced is already bringing planes back to the gate after two-and-a-half hours on the tarmac, rather than wait for the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new rules to take effect April 29. According to the Associated Press (AP), the "airline says it expects more cancellations as crews who return to the gate run up against federal rules limiting how long they can fly."
Ah, yet another airline predicting doom and gloom. Is anyone else getting sick of all the complaining about these rules, or is it just me?
Here's the thing: Since the DOT unleashed this new policy in December, the airlines have collectively done nothing but guarantee widespread cancellations and an increasingly inconvenient experience for passengers. I can't think of a single airline quote along the lines of, "Well, these rules are tough, but we'll try to rework our schedules and operations to accommodate both our passengers and the policy." (Can you think of any such comment? If you can, please send it in! Let's give credit where it's due.)
No, instead of a constructive response, the airlines are using passengers in a passive-aggressive strike against the DOT's rules. Instead of "let's fix the problem," we get a self-fulfilling prophecy of cancelled flights and headaches for consumers. Airlines seem willing to effectively punish travelers for ... not wanting to spend hours on end on the tarmac? For the DOT's attempt to introduce some consumer-friendly reforms?
While I support the DOT's rules in spirit, there's a lot to criticize about specific policies, namely the rigid rules and seemingly disproportionate fines (a full Boeing 737 would rack up over $3 million in fines; compare that to the fine against Northwest for 17 years of improper maintenance and you'll see that one of these things is not like the other). But considering carriers have had years to fix this relatively minor problem, and taking into account the airlines' response to the rules, I'm starting to think the industry got exactly what it deserved.
Too bad the same is not true for consumers.