Passengers on canceled flights struggle to re-book

It would be bad under any circumstances, but during the week prior to Labor Day weekend it's a nightmare. From the NYT:

The disruptions rippled out from the Northeast. In Los Angeles, Jonathan Strauss, 46, a lawyer, said he had finished up a vacation with his wife and two children, and tried to head back to New York on Saturday night but their flight was canceled. He tried again on Sunday, and was back again on Monday. He is now hoping to get home by Thursday. "They wouldn't pick up the phones," Mr. Strauss said. "So yesterday afternoon I came to the airport for the first time, and there was a four-hour wait just to speak to anyone. So I said, you know what, let me go back and enjoy the great California weather. I went back, enjoyed myself, had a few margaritas, and came back again now to try to rebook."

Airlines operate with much less operational cushion they they did 20 or 30 years ago, whether it's the number of available planes or the staffing levels in their customer service departments (airlines in the United States had 474,000 full-time employees in June, compared with 637,000 in June 2001). Just do the math: The airlines canceled roughly 10,000 flights over the weekend. Assuming an average of 100 passengers per flight, that's 1 million people who need to be accommodated.

Kennedy's Terminal 4, meanwhile, was so crowded Monday afternoon that merely walking through the throng was difficult. Sabine Matthes, 28, a financial controller delayed since Saturday while trying to get home to Germany, said that she and a group of companions were hoping to fly standby to Frankfurt after learning that they could not be rebooked on their regular tickets until Sept. 6. "We're tired. Exhausted. And a little gross because there's no showers at the airport. The toilets are like a Third World country," she said.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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