I recently flew from D.C. through North Carolina to Baton Rouge. When I got to North Carolina, I found my flight had been canceled and I was given a new flight the next morning. I don’t know if they would have put me up in a hotel, I didn’t check because it was 7 hours to my flight, and I guessed that between shuttling to and from the airport I’d get less than 5 hours sleep and it probably wasn’t worth the trouble. Besides, I heard people saying the local hotels were all full, which wouldn’t be surprising with so many flights canceled. In retrospect, I wish I’d tried. Regardless, however, I was part of a very large number of people sleeping in the airport.
This terminal was a U.S.Air hub, which means it was almost exclusively their planes on the boards, and only the U.S.Air club was in the terminal. Now I realize that airlines are not swimming in profits these days, and there’s only so much they can do when there’s a storm. I heard a lot of people say they wouldn’t fly U.S.Air again, but I wasn’t one of them. However, I think they missed a lot of opportunities. For starters, I think it was a mistake to close up all the stores, and leave us all in the cold.
If I was the airline, I’d make deals with airport restaurants to keep one or two of them open all night in the event of massive cancellations. The restaurants that did it would make massive amounts of money, and it would earn a lot of good will. That’s the easiest (and most profitable) thing they could have done.
The second is to face the fact that people will sometimes need to sleep in the airport. It looked to me as if all the chairs were designed to prevent people from sleeping on them in any position. Low backs, immovable arm rests, etc. It might be nice to provide cots (I think Houston airport has some), or maybe set up a large number of air mattresses somewhere if there’s a massive number of cancelled flights. That shouldn’t be too costly, and it would give the impression that someone cared about us. And it has got to be cheaper than hotel vouchers.
This last suggestion is probably impractical. After the storm was over, it was late at night. Airplanes sat empty, docked to the terminals. Given that all the people were already in the airport, couldn’t they have scheduled an extra flight?