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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Summer Travel

Today's WALL STREET JOURNAL carried an article about expected problems for air travelers this summer. Because the airlines have scheduled 3.5% more flights in June, July and August than last year, there will likely be many problems this summer when storms force slowdowns and cancellations. I really don't think I'd like to be stuck in a plane without air conditioning on a hot summer day.

According to John Prater president of the Air Line Pilots Association, "If this doesn't look like the summer of 2000 all over again, I don't know what does." In 2000 the airports and airways were jammed with travelers, causing widespread flight delays. This year, travel is booming again, good for the economy, not so good for travelers. Airline staffing is tight and there may be some labor battles at some airlines.

Employment at the major airlines was down 2.9% while passenger traffic was up 1.2%. They have also reduced the number of spare pilots in reserve to fill in when crews get sick, delayed or stranded and they also have fewer spare airplanes to replace mechanically grounded aircraft or planes off schedule because of storms.

This article gave a few hints to make travel easier this summer. Don't schedule flights with close connections or arrivals shortly before big events, meetings or cruise-ship sailings. Watch the weather, if storms are brewing try to leave a day earlier if you can change without penalty. Try to fly early in the day since thunderstorms often occur later in the day.

Now I have to decide if I really want to fly this summer, or should I take the train or drive to my cruise to Alaska.

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