Sunday musings: Airline punctuality elusive, chance encounter with flight attendants, hotel security


We take a look at how incomplete delay data from the airlines doesn’t tell the full story about schedules and problems with on-time arrivals and departures. Next, the travel editor for Conde Nast Traveler has a chance encounter with a group of United flight attendants and discovers some juicy information. Finally, hotel security is getting an upgrade with new abilities to monitor nooks and crannies of the hotels never before protected.

Full picture of airlines’ punctuality is elusive

It’s been more than a 1,000 days since the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a rulemaking to make on-time statistics more inclusive. The rule has been delayed time after time and has not even seen the light of day so that consumers can comment on DOT’s thoughts. This insightful article from one of the New York Times’ aviation reporters casts a harsh light on these delays and on how they keep information from consumers.

When consumers are only provided partial information and incomplete at best, it amounts to being misleading information. The very department and the executive branch with the responsibility to deter misleading and deceptive information is only adding to the problem by itself producing misleading data. Let’s get this “passenger protection 3″ rulemaking out of limbo.

A recent federal report found that passengers are getting only part of the picture, and that the industry’s on-time performance is actually much lower than billed. And a proposed rule that would require carriers to provide a more accurate picture has itself been delayed — and has yet to be adopted more than two years after it was proposed.

On-time statistics capture only 76 percent of domestic flights at American commercial airports, according to a report released in December by the Transportation Department’s inspector general.

These statistics do not include many segments of the industry that have grown in recent years: international flights, flights flown by Spirit Airlines, or many flights operated by regional carriers and other partners. The biggest gap in reporting typically involves smaller planes that are more likely to be delayed or canceled.

A short, honest, and funny interview with three anonymous United flight attendants

Wendy Perrin meets a group of United flight attendants on the train heading into Manhattan from New Jersey. The conversation was illuminating and there are some quirky thoughts from them about flying today.

Q: What’s the number one way a traveler can have a better flight?
A: Flight attendant #1: “Bring snacks. Even though we sell stuff on the plane, we could run out by the time we get to you. And it’s always nice to have your own snacks. Bring a bottle of water too. The crew all brings their own food. We all carry lunch bags.”
Flight attendant #2: “Dress appropriately. A lot of people get cold, especially if they’re sitting by the window or in the exit row. So bring something for warmth. We only give out blankets in first class, since they need to be laundered between flights.”
Flight attendant #3: “Bring your iPad or other electronics so you can entertain yourself. We like it when passengers are entertained. Because otherwise they’re in our little galley in the back doing their calisthenics and yoga!”

With better security technology, hotels shore up blind spots

Video is shoring up security at hotels and filling in the gaps that hotel staff cannot fully protect. However, common sense still needs to prevail. This article showcases new technology and finishes with plain old tried-and-true security tips.

While hotel chains can be fiercely competitive, they cooperate in matters of security. In his work with the International Lodging Safety and Security Association, which includes heads of security at local and nationwide hotels along with representatives from law enforcement, Mr. Brandt manages email lists to share information about criminal or suspicious activity at the hotels, as well as police reports and educational materials.

Mr. Brandt said in one instance a scam artist pretending to be a movie location scout was rooming and eating free at a number of hotels until his picture went out to the hotel security group email list and he was apprehended.

In New Orleans, Mike E. Cahn III, president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association security network, says he sends surveillance tapes showing criminal activity to other area hotels, and to the police, who sometimes put them on YouTube. Recently, a man stole a laptop from a conference room, Mr. Cahn said, and within 24 hours he was recognized from the distributed video footage and apprehended.