Airports Council: We’re Sick and Tired of Bad Reporting, Airline Buck-Passing in Stranded-Passenger Incidents

The national airports trade group said today that it is sick and tired of poor reporting and of airlines trying to blame airports for problems caused by airlines alone

Absent-TSA, crew time-out, closed-airport, that phantom chartered bus — all are red herrings.

As Continental itself made clear, there is no excuse for what happened in Rochester Friday night and Saturday morning. Meanwhile, airports are getting a little sick and tired of taking the blame for airline misfeasance in stranded passenger incidents.

I’ve been covering these events since the current string of them started in late Dec., 2006. When remedies are applied, it’s usually the local airport authorities that do them. Airport managers, acting where airlines have failed their passengers, have even sent out pizza and other food to stranded passengers.

Greg Principato, the president of the airports trade group Airports Council International/North America, is steamed about the bad reporting, including the most recent bad reporting over the Rochester incident.

Here’s what he had to say today:

“The story about passengers stuck on a regional jet Friday night in Rochester, Minn., really has me angry. What angers me the most is this: the airline involved blamed the airport, saying it was the middle of the night, the airport couldn’t take care of the passengers, there were no TSA screeners, etc.

This is bull.

The airport was and is ready to receive passengers in this situation. They are an international airport open 24/7. There were clean rest rooms and vending machines available in the sterile area. The notion that the absence of TSA screeners caused this is also nonsense; the people could have been let off and remained in the secure area of the terminal.

This airline and its personnel screwed up. It happens. When it does, you own the mistake, apologize and compensate those who paid a price for the mistake, and then set about making sure it doesn’t happen again. I was pleased today to see that Continental is offering a refund to the passengers and a certificate for a future flight.

What bothers me is the pattern of blaming the airport and I am tired of it. The director of a small southern airport told me a story about being on a plane that landed early at his own airport. The pilot pulled up toward the gate but stopped short announcing that as they were early, “the airport” wasn’t ready. The airport director talked to the pilot about this; it was the airline’s ground staff that wasn’t ready for an early flight, the airport was all set. The pilot didn’t care; he said it because he could.

The same happens when “air traffic control” is blamed for all sorts of problems, including those caused by airline over-scheduling. The airline business is a complex one; no doubt. Mistakes will happen. But I am tired of airlines blaming everyone else, with airports being their favorite target of choice.

The airport in Rochester, Minn., was ready to help those people. The airline preferred to leave them on the plane and then found it easier to blame the airport and TSA.

Shame on them. They deserve whatever remedies might be forced on them by a traveling public, and the politicians who represent then, who are fed up with such irresponsibility.”

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