Monday, August 10, 2009

Tarmac policy violated in smelly, stalled flight

From the Houston Chronicle:

A Continental Airlines regional partner kept 47 passengers inside a cramped and smelly plane over the weekend for twice as long as permitted under a policy the Houston-based airline adopted earlier this year.

The passengers who boarded Friday night's Continental Express Flight 2816 — marketed and booked by Continental Airlines and operated by ExpressJet Airlines — expected a three-hour flight from Houston to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

They wound up stuck on the 50-seat aircraft more than nine hours, three in the air and six on the tarmac outside the terminal in Rochester, Minn., where the plane was diverted to avoid heavy rain at the Twin Cities airport. They sat and waited to be released from the airplane from midnight Friday to about 6 a.m. Saturday, as the parents of two infants on board ran out of diapers and the lavatory toilet stopped flushing.

In January, Continental implemented a policy “that no passenger should be subjected to a tarmac delay of three hours or more without being afforded the opportunity to get off the aircraft, provided we can do so safely,” Continental spokeswoman Julie King said in a written statement Monday.


Less clear was exactly why the passengers weren't allowed off the plane as hours passed, the cabin conditions worsened and the meager food supply dwindled to nothing.

ExpressJet said Sunday that it couldn't gain access for the passengers to the terminal at Rochester International Airport. But airport manager Steve Leqve told the local Post-Bulletin newspaper that was not correct and that “they could have come into the airport.”

More here.

After reading this story I looked around my apartment and very quickly felt a great deal of empathy for these essentially imprisoned passengers.

The company that owns the place where I live is doing some major renovations here, and the work has been going on for weeks. Because I work nights, and usually get up around 1:30 in the afternoon or so, I've lost some serious sleep as workers have hammered and nailed what seems to be every square inch of my home's exterior. But that was just the warm up: the renovations have had workers actually coming inside every other day for a couple of weeks now. They're converting my small balcony, which I loved because it gave my cats some much needed outdoor time in a relatively safe environment, into a "sun room." Well, okay, no balcony now, I guess I'll learn to love my tiny "sun room," and the cats will just have to deal. Meanwhile, they're converting my storage closet, in which I had stored a bunch of shit, into a microscopic laundry room; this involves work in my bedroom closet where the water heater is located. The long and short of it is that my apartment now looks like I'm in the process of moving, with all my stuff all over the place--it's not easy to get around in here at the moment.

Last week, my cable and internet were down for a couple of days, and I had to call in a technician to hook it back up--he told me the construction workers had disconnected it for reasons unknown. Last night, I had to spend the night over at Becky's place because I was informed in a terse memo shoved under my door Friday evening that plumbers were coming over at 8:30 Monday morning to work for many hours whether I liked it or not. Another time, workers left a window open after they were done; I got home six or seven hours later to find my air conditioner cooling the greater New Orleans area.

My cats are traumatized. My home life is utterly disrupted. I keep losing sleep. And my lease is up at the end of the month: I have a creeping dread that my rent is going up to compensate for all these renovations. I wonder how much I'll have to pay for my troubles. This is what it's like for a business to bend you over and stick it in. And that's exactly what the passengers on this flight had happen to them.

It's not simply that corporate forces have hijacked our political process, rendering the notion of democracy moot. Corporate forces are increasingly taking over our personal lives, and because they already control the government, there's very little we can do about it. Compare my troubles, and the plight of the passengers of Continental Express Flight 2816, to the people whose dogs and cats were poisoned in the tainted pet food scandal a couple of years back, or to the various salmonella and E. coli scares over the years, or to people sucked in and fucked over by subprime loans, or to people screwed by their health insurance providers. This shit just goes on and on.

Other than smiling to hold back the tears, I have no idea what to do about this.