Upgraded: The notion of a contract in air travel
Downgraded: Airline logistics
The Department of Transportation has revealed sweeping new rules that govern airlines’ conduct, but implementation and enforcement will not be as easy as passing a new rule. Most headlines read that this is a big victory for passenger rights, with the bulk of the attention focused on a new 3-hour limit on time spent aboard a plane, pushed away from the gate. That’s something but this won’t please everybody. (If your flight would be able to take off 3 hours and 5 minutes after pushback, tough luck, you’re heading back to the gate at the 3 hour mark…) Ground delays suck. No doubt. But There will be unintended consequences, and airlines will find ways to address these logistical challenges.
More importantly, in my view, the rules include a provision that airlines can’t retroactively change the contract governing your ticket. This has always struck me as patently unfair: You buy your ticket in January for a March flight, and the airline changes its rules in February; until now, you’ve been stuck with the February contract. Now, the federal government has ruled that you’re covered by the original contract in effect when you made your purchase. Good.
Chris Elliott has pulled the highlights from the actual rules, if you want to review.
Downgraded: Globespan Airlines
Potentially Downgraded: Credit card processors
Scotland’s Globespan Airlines shut down abruptly over the weekend, stranding 4500 travelers mid-trip. For the time being, guidance from the company on rebookings, is available on the former airline’s website. But questions now turn to whether or not the airline’s credit card processor was to blame for the immediate death knell. The processor, E-clear, apparently held back between £30m and £35m due to Globespan. You may recall that Frontier Airlines blamed their credit card processor when they declared bankruptcy in 2008 (though they didn’t halt all operations at that point).
Upgraded, after days of being Downgraded: Eurostar
English Channel rail firm Eurostar had a miserable (and well-publicized) weekend, with a complete shutdown of all their trains, midway through the Channel crossing. And the company handled things rather poorly. For example:
When worried passengers [aboard the trains] challenged Eurostar officials they received a cursory shrug. Some became so desperate for information that they banged on the train driver’s door but could only hear him sobbing inside.
Awesome. That’s the kind of leadership in a crisis I look for… But the company is resuming service and has promised to make it up to the thousands of passengers it stranded, not just in the tunnels, but on both sides of the channel. They’ve vowed that “the company would reimburse them for expenses incurred while they were stranded.”
Upgraded: The number of stars in the Parisian hotel sky
Four stars? Not enough. Bring on the fifth star. At least they haven’t gone the way of the absurdist 6 and 7 star hotel…
A Seattle company has put in motion plans to create a large-scale biofuels operation aimed specifically at airlines. AltAir Fuels has signed up 14 airlines to be launch customers for jet fuel and diesel made from camelina, a mustard-like weed whose seeds can be refined.