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Innovation: You Don’t Need a Crystal Ball

As a follow-up to my most recent blog post about increasing delays among the U.S.’s network carriers, I’d like to note that one of the most accurate forecasters of our current travel woes is Scott McCartney, author every Tuesday of The Wall Street Journal’s “The Middle Seat” column and moderator of the “Middle Seat” forum (formerly Friday’s “Middle Seat Mailbox”).

As a follow-up to my most recent blog post about increasing delays among the U.S.’s network carriers, I’d like to note that one of the most accurate forecasters of our current travel woes is Scott McCartney, author every Tuesday of The Wall Street Journal’s “The Middle Seat” column and moderator of the “Middle Seat” forum (formerly Friday’s “Middle Seat Mailbox”).

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So long as there’s “The Middle Seat,” who needs a crystal ball?

To understand what I’m talking about, you only have to look back to Scott’s spring column “Fliers Face a Brutal Summer.” His reading of the airline tea leaves has been spot-on.

His latest column, “Why Fliers Find Summer Travel Growing Tougher,” hammers home what other travel writers have been saying of late, which is that June turned out to be one of the worst month’s in U.S. history for flight delays.

“It may end up having been the worst of all time,” he writes.

If anybody should know, it’s McCartney, who not only has been on the airline beat since 1995, but is an instrument-rated private pilot as well.

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Another seer is Joe Brancatelli, whose JoeSentMe.com — “the home page for business travelers” — features a blog devoted to this summer’s travel horror stories. Titled “The Summer of Our Discontent,” it informs us that, among other things, “Tuesdays are becoming the worst day of the week to fly.”

Also check out David Grossman, who has a business travel column at USATODAY.com. Of especial interest is David’s recent column about the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) wish list for the airline industry.

Cindy Loose’s “Coming and Going” column in the Washington Post is another great future-forward place to monitor airline and airport trends.

Don’t overlook Scott McCartney’s recent podcast analyzing the cause of June’s flight delays and discussing what the solutions are to our current problems, including the need for the FAA to push wider adoption of satellite-based navigation technology. He also observes that the airlines have been clogging the air traffic system with small regional jets, supplanting higher-capacity models.

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Another of the key points of his podcast is that air travel may have been more reliable in “the good old days,” but it was also a lot more expensive. I agree that one of the drivers of the U.S. economy is low-cost air travel, and that the FAA, Congress, and the airlines really need to work harder to identify ways to fix the traffic jam in the skies.

What are your biggest complaints about the current spate of delays?

More important, what do you think needs to be done to fix it?

Airline Futurist • Miami • www.amadeus.com