This latest bout with the weather on the East Coast has highlighted the problems of running airlines at capacity without factoring in weather as an element. It has also shined a spotlight on airlines’ telephone support operations that were overwhelmed first, with requests for cancellations and changes to avoid the mess, then with passengers stuck at airports looking for a way home.

One friend planning to shift her flight in and out of Boston waited on hold for JetBlue from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. While still waiting on hold on her home phone, she called using her cell phone and eventually got through and changed flights that avoided the Monday Boston snowstorm.

There were no other alternatives, at least with JetBlue. All changes had to go through the 800 number. There was no on-line alternative. Other airline passengers faced the same problems.

Newspaper reports confirmed this phone jam situation. Continental, United, Virgin America, Delta, USAir, American and virtually every other airline were faced with overwhelmed phone jams, even though many brought in twice as many operators to handle the onslaught.

The lucky ones were those who were automatically rebooked and notified by their cell phone of their pending flights. That is, if they were happy with the alternative arrangements that computers generated. Otherwise, there were back on hold in the telephone jam trying to change their already-once-change flight.

Guess it is better that being stuck at an airport surrounded by two feet of snow.

What do you think? Are automatic rescheduling programs with cell phone text message communication the way to go? Or, would you want to be able to handle changes yourself, or through your travel agent.