Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

August 2009 Archives

With word of the potential involvement of Congress in setting a maximum size limit for airline carry-on bags, TripAdvisor conducted a poll of 2,890 respondents this week.

The results were pretty evenly split down the middle:
Do you think Congress should set a maximum size limit for airline carry-on bags?
54% Yes
46% No

What do you think? Good idea or not?

Stuck on the tarmac saga

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Check out this story about the latest "stranded on the tarmac" saga.....have you ever been stuck on the tarmac?

What should be done to stop this from happening?

Here's the story:

Pilot pleaded to evacuate stranded passengers

WASHINGTON -- The pilot of an airliner stranded overnight on an airport tarmac in Minnesota pleaded unsuccessfully for her 47 passengers to be allowed to get off and go inside a terminal. "We just need to work out some way to get them off ... We can't keep them here any longer," she said.
The Transportation Department on Friday released recordings of the repeated appeals by the pilot and her airline's dispatchers earlier this month while passengers were kept waiting for about six hours in the cramped plane amid crying babies and a smelly toilet before they were allowed to deplane.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said an investigation by his department found that ExpressJet, the regional carrier which operated Continental Express Flight 2816 for Continental Airlines, wasn't at fault in the tarmac stranding.
Instead, blame for the incident, which has revived calls for greater consumer protections for airline passengers, belongs with Mesaba Airlines, whose representative declined to let the ExpressJet passengers deplane, LaHood said in a statement.
A Mesaba representative incorrectly told ExpressJet that the passengers couldn't be allowed inside the terminal because Transportation Security Administration personnel had left for the day, LaHood said.
Actually, security regulations allow for deplaning passengers to be kept in a separate "sterile" area until they are ready to board, he said.
"We have determined that the Express Jet crew was not at fault. In fact, the flight crew repeatedly tried to get permission to deplane the passengers at the airport or obtain a bus for them," LaHood said.
"There was a complete lack of common sense here," the secretary added. "It's no wonder the flying public is so angry and frustrated."
Mesaba was the only airline with staff still at the airport that Friday night.
The plane left Houston at 9:23 p.m. local time on Aug. 7, but was diverted by thunderstorms to Rochester. Passengers were kept waiting on the tarmac only 50 yards from a terminal. In the morning, they were allowed to deplane. They spent about 21/2 hours inside the terminal before reboarding the same plane. They arrived in Minneapolis, their destination, after 11 a.m. CDT.
Mesaba is a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. A Delta spokeswoman didn't immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Continental Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner said in a statement that he was gratified the Transportation Department recognized the ExpressJet crew's efforts to resolve the situation.
The department released audio tapes of the captain explaining the situation to an ExpressJet dispatcher, and dispatchers trying to persuade Mesaba officials to allow passengers inside. Passengers from an earlier flight diverted to Rochester had been allowed to deplane and were taken by bus to Minneapolis, about 85 miles away.
However, Mesaba officials said there were no more buses available.
"I can't get her a bus, I can't do anything," said a Mesaba representative.
"You can't do anything for her? OK," asked the ExpressJet dispatcher.
"Because she was saying nobody was letting her off the airplane, letting the people off the airplane and all that," the dispatcher continued.
"We can't -- I mean we were just able to let these guys off. We can't get them a bus. If I can't secure them a bus, I can't have them in a closed airport," the Mesaba representative replied.
Link Christin, who was on the flight, said the incident was a clear example of why more safeguards are necessary for passengers.
"To me, the critical issue is not who's to blame, but to figure out what happened and how it could be prevented in the future," said Christin, a lecturer at William Mitchell College of Law.
More than a week afterward, Christin said he's started to think about "the fact that so many variables were at play with 47, 48 people, two babies, and the variety of potential catastrophes that could have happened."
"In reflection, I think it's even a more serious matter than I perceived it to be when I was going through it," he said.
Associated Press Writers Nomaan Merchant in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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