Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear Flight 904 Passenger

A friendly note from your caring Department of Transportation.

Last evening at Dulles Flying Field you no doubt benefited greatly from our new “3 Hour Tarmac Rule.” Just to refresh your memory, we passed that rule in 2009 because some folks in Rochester sat out a snowstorm on a jet for about 8 hours and were quite upset over it.

Consequently―and because we value your concerns (and your votes for our boss), we decided to limit the amount of time those incompetents can hold you hostage on the tarmac to just three hours. And―don't forget this―we can fine them up to $27,500 per passenger (yes, you read that right) if they keep you over three hours.

The airline people get their jollies finding excuses to strand you out there. Don't let them fool you into believing those storms are really hazardous to flight. And that old excuse that the airways are saturated is just too stale to swallow. If they tell you a gate is not currently available, it's probably a lie. Our airports will gladly rent them spare gates for, something around $27,500 per day. So you can easily see our logic. By saving all those fines, they could spend that money renting spare gates to take you back to when they have these delays. That's just plain good monetary policy, something we know a lot about here in Washington.

But, as to last night, those of you who thought you were going to LAX got a rude surprise. Your flight, delayed by “weather” (yeah, right) had to return to the gate to avoid busting our three hour rule. They almost didn't make it because the ramp was closed to personnel because of lightning. (FYI: our 3-hour rule is from door closing to door opening. That makes the airline people cut out of the lineup at 2 hours 15 minutes so that they can be sure and make it back to the gate before getting busted―dirty greedy capitalists.)

We understand your flight made it back to the gate with 12 minutes to spare. They cheated your government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines that could have gone toward things we could do to greatly improve your lives. If you were listening to the pilots talking on the radio, which your airline, and only yours, allows at your seat, you probably heard the 777 next to you begging the ramp marshallers to hurry. They had only 3 minutes left. Another jet went 20 minutes over the limit. That's good news for our revenue-starved departments.

Now, as to your cancellation. Most unfortunate. Normally, the airline people will get back to the gate in under three hours, open the door, let anyone off who wants off, shut the door, get more fuel, and go back out and get in line, the back of the line of course. But your flight didn't do that. It canceled. Why? Because those ignominious pilots think they shouldn't work any longer than 16 hours. (But to be fair, that's our rule also.) The trip back to the gate cost your captain his duty day. He could not make it to LAX in under 16 hours. The airline called him off the flight and sent him home.

And you probably ask, why didn't they tap a a standby captain to take his place? He was the standby captain.

Thank you for your understanding. Our mission here is ACCOMPLISHED!

A message from your friendly Department of Transportation. Drop in and see us.

Happy flying!

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