web Musings of The Global Traveller

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A rash of major disruptions to some airlines

Safety checks

Last week Upgrade: Travel Better and Cranky Flier (amongst others) blogged about several airlines' having some or all aircraft of a type being grounded temporarily for various maintenance checks.

Today it is United's turn with their 777s (source Chicago Tribune). Apparently one of the long list of things to check regularly, has not been checked for some time.

So a quick run-down by airline.

  • American - MD-80s out for wiring checks, now completed.
  • Delta - MD-88s and MD-90s out for wiring checks, now completed.
  • Southwest - 737s out for checks of the skin, now completed.
  • United - 747s out for maintenance checks, now completed.
  • United - 777s out for fire suppression checks, underway.

While I'd be surprised if any of these safety checks finds anything other than minor deficiencies in process and monitoring, they are still enormously disruptive to the airlines affected and of course to travellers. As the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seemingly conducting audits airline by airline, I'd be interested in knowing when they plan to do the remaining airlines - so I can make sure I'm not flying those airlines at a time when disruption is likely.

British Airways (BA)

The situation seems to be very slowly improving. Cancellations and delays through London Heathrow (LHR) terminal T5 are ongoing (almost 1 week so far) but slowly reducing each day. There has to be a big question mark over whether they are up to shifting most of the remaining flights from T4 to T5, which is scheduled for April 30. Especially as one of the biggest problems has been baggage and T4 flights being longhaul will bring a lot more baggage. If the move is delayed, this will have snowball effects on the great London Heathrow shuffle (see this blog entry by Cranky Flier for a summary).

A threat of a pilots strike (over the set up of BA's new Open Skies subsidiary) was last month held off by referring to court for a ruling. I guess the silver lining of the current mess is that BA is (or should be) much more likely to settle with the pilots to avoid yet another public relations disaster.

I'm glad my transfers through LHR this month are on other airlines, even though I do wish to see the new terminal for myself.

Keep informed

Clearly, the status of all these (and other similar) disruptions can change quite quickly. Be informed. Check the relevant airline and airport websites. Check live flight information (eg flightstats). Know your rights (eg if flying an EU airline or any airline from the EU check out my previous entry on EU passenger rights). Some more tips are in my blog entry from last year on disruptions.

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