The continuing decline of basic comfort and civility in air travel has been a source of continued complaint on this blog and other sites. Many have complained about how they book a flight with a major airline only to be shoved on to some small puddle jumper run by an unknown carrier. Then there are the horror stories of being held for hours on planes on the tarmac. A new story involving Continental Airlines Flight 2816 combines all of these problems into a nightmare where passengers were left on a plane with malfunctioning toilets overnight after being diverted from their intended airport. They were held overnight because the flight crew was over their limit for flying and the security staff at the airport had gone home for the night.
While consumer advocates have tried for years to get real legal rights and causes of action against airlines, this powerful lobby has blocked every substantive effort — even as the public helped the airlines with massive financial assistance.
This case shows how people have become little more than cargo in the eyes of airlines. The 47 passengers took off from Houston to go to Minneapolis. While they purchased their tickets from Continental, they were put on an ExpressJet flight. Due to thunderstorms, they were diverted to Rochester. However, once they landed, the crew had reached their maximum number of hours and were not allowed to fly any further. Moreover, the security staff at the airport had gone home for the night, so the staff refused to allow the passengers to leave the small plane with a number of crying children and malfunctioning toilets. They remained there overnight. They were given one snack and one free drink during their ordeal. In the morning, they were briefly allowed into the airport before being put on the same plane (with the broken toilets) for the flight to Minneapolis.
Beyond the huge support of the airline lobby, one of the reasons why Congress may not be willing to act on real protections for passengers is that they have their own fleet of luxury planes for junkets and just called for over a half billion dollars to expand their fleet of jets. Indeed, given how horrible the economy is and how horrible commercial air travel has become, one could blame the members for wanting the public to buy them luxury jets to go on European vacations?
After shoving its passengers on to the ExpressAir flight, Continental is now referring any inquiring to that airline.
For the full story, click here.