Airlines are good at deflecting blame when things go wrong. It is not at all uncommon to hear the refrain, "There’s nothing we can do; it is a weather/ATC delay," and it has been like that for years. With the FAA furloughs starting this week, however, the airlines are getting rather more aggressive about the situation. Many are encouraging passengers to express their frustration through online petitions or other contact with elected officials. For United Airlines passengers the flight attendants have been given a specific script to read.
This delay is caused or made worse by the FAA’s furloughs of air traffic controllers. We know this is frustrating, and are doing everything we can to minimize the impact on you. Please let Washington know the FAA’s purposeful delay of your flight is unacceptable by signing the petition on <website>.
So, unlike last week when there were many ATC delays, this time around the airlines are trying to get out in front of the PR disaster, shifting the blame and calling attention to things. Then again, their lobbying group has also filed a lawsuit related to the furloughs seeking to restore the employees and the flight schedules.
It is interesting to note that this is not the first time that the airlines have, as an industry, attempted to involve their customers in efforts to sway public policy. Earlier in the year a number of airlines had their CEOs talking about airline taxation in many public venues. Some even included it in their in-flight magazine monthly column. Historically such coordinated activity wasn’t a common thing; now it is. For anyone convinced that there is still enough competition out there for customers to be protected I’d say that actions like this at least give me a bit of pause.
Mostly, however, I just feel badly for the FAs being forced into the middle of the fight. That seems like an unprofessional move on the part of management.
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