Travel roulette: do you feel lucky?

luckypunk Well, do ya?
That’s the question I am asking myself right now. I’m scheduled to fly to Huntsville Friday, on American. Only American is having a bit of an issue with their pilots.
See, the pilots are angry (not without justification) that AA has abrogated their contract and imposed a new one. Under the National Railway Labor Act, airline pilots can’t strike without jumping through a bunch of hoops. What they can do, however, is work strictly to rules. That means customer-friendly actions like calling in sick, slowing down taxi speeds, and refusing to leave the gate unless every single open maintenance item, including things like broken armrests, are fixed.

“We’re just following the rules,” say the pilots.

“Grrrrr,” say the passengers.

The result is that American’s on-time performance has cratered. Yesterday a whopping 54% of their flights out of SFO were delayed, with nearly 25% of the delays being longer than 45 minutes. A full third of American’s flights ex DFW were delayed longer than 45 minutes.

Having already done their worst to threaten the pilots, American’s options are limited. They’re proactively starting to cancel flights. This, of course, causes all sorts of problems for passengers… like me.

Here are my choices:

  • I can stick with my existing flight. It might or might not be delayed due to “maintenance” or other shenanigans. (Of course, since I’m flying out of SFO there’s a non-zero chance that it’d be delayed anyway.) The problem here: a pilot who calls in sick on the, say, BNA-DFW run might delay the airplane that’s supposed to come to SFO and get me, so even if the crews assigned to SFO are behaving themselves I might still get hosed.
  • I can switch to an earlier flight on American, thus giving myself some insurance in case shenanigans come to pass. I still might get hosed. That would mean I’d miss the planned flyover of Endeavour at Moffett Field, which would really aggravate me; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Plus I might still get delayed.
  • I can cancel my American ticket and buy a $400+ one-way ticket on Delta or United (there are no frequent flyer seats available except on the redeye). I wouldn’t get delayed, but I’d probably have to miss the flyover.

None of these are great choices, which is why I still haven’t decided what to do. I guess I’ll keep an eye on FlightStats and see what the cancellation / delay rate looks like tomorrow. The Wall Street Journal’s air travel columnist is telling people to book away from AA, and that’s what I’m leaning towards doing at this point even though it’s expensive; if I have to take a 12+ hour delay and miss that time with the boys, well, you can’t put a price on that.

Historical note: back in 1998, Northwest Airlines went on strike, stranding a member of my then-wife’s family at our house for two excruciating weeks. I swore to stop flying NWA, and I didn’t for nearly 7 years. Hose me, American, and you’ll be next.

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One response to “Travel roulette: do you feel lucky?

  1. Pingback: Thursday trivia #74 | Paul's Down-Home Page

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