Friday, December 24, 2010

I (Won't) Be Home For Christmas

Caption: Denver Airport snowed in, December, 2006.

Image credit: ashleyniblock/Flickr

I'm so glad that I'm not traveling over the holidays this year:
Delta Air Lines plans to cancel 500 flights Saturday because of heavy snow expected in Nashville and Atlanta. For the first Christmas in 17 years, Nashville and Atlanta could get more than just a dusting of snow, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to intensify and move northeast on Sunday to the mid-Atlantic states and New England.

In fact, a good section of the U.S. is getting snow Friday night. Winter weather advisories were in effect from Kansas east to Kentucky and from Minnesota south to Arkansas on Friday.

Some Regions Getting Fresh Snow for Christmas
Atlanta is a major hub airport for Delta. Odds are fairly good that if I'd been flying Christmas day, I would have been going through Atlanta. Of course, it could be worse, I could have been trying to get to or from Europe:
Thousands of travellers were stranded at the main Paris airport Saturday after hundreds of Christmas flights were cancelled, as freezing weather and widespread snowfalls caused travel chaos across Europe.

About 400 flights in and out of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle were scrapped, with some 30,000 travellers plans disrupted by the cancellations and delays, said the airport's director Patrice Hardel.

Flights in Belgium and Germany were also affected and motorists stayed off the roads as western Europe battled the latest cold snap.

Christmas chaos in Europe as snow strands thousands
Frankfurt and Heathrow, the other two of Europe's three busiest airports, have been either closed or operating at reduced capacity much of the week.

As it turns out, at least part of the problem is that the airlines in Europe weren't planning ahead:
Airport authorities at Charles de Gaulle ordered part of Terminal 2E to be cleared of passengers because of fears that the roof might collapse under the weight of 60cm (2ft) of snow.

In 2004, the same roof collapsed shortly after the terminal opened, killing four people.

The disruption at Charles de Gaulle was also blamed on a shortage of de-icing fluid, and the cancellation of flights led to 2,000 people being stranded at the airport overnight.

The French authorities, struggling to cope with the country's third major snowfall of the winter, said fresh supplies were on their way but would not arrive before Monday.

Snow paralyses transport in parts of Western Europe
Who could have foreseen that there would be lots of snow in winter, or that they might need de-icing fluid? Only people familiar with air travel, I suppose. You'd think they'd rather have a little extra on hand than have to refund thousands of tickets, and having to put 2,000 people up for the night in Paris hotels.

There's at least one woman who is probably sorry her flight wasn't canceled.
Claire Hirschkind, 56, who says she is a rape victim and who has a pacemaker-type device implanted in her chest, says her constitutional rights were violated. She says she never broke any laws. But the Transportation Security Administration disagrees.

Hirschkind was hoping to spend Christmas with friends in California, but she never made it past the security checkpoint.

"I can't go through because I have the equivalent of a pacemaker in me," she said.

Hirschkind said because of the device in her body, she was led to a female TSA employee and three Austin police officers. She says she was told she was going to be patted down.

"I turned to the police officer and said, 'I have given no due cause to give up my constitutional rights. You can wand me,'" and they said, 'No, you have to do this,'" she said.

Hirschkind agreed to the pat down, but on one condition.

"I told them, 'No, I'm not going to have my breasts felt,' and she said, 'Yes, you are,'" said Hirschkind.

When Hirschkind refused, she says that "the police actually pushed me to the floor, (and) handcuffed me. I was crying by then. They drug me 25 yards across the floor in front of the whole security."

Woman arrested at ABIA after refusing enhanced pat down
They're really good at beating up and arresting 56 year old women, but they don't seem to be much good at finding security problems:
Houston businessman Farid Seif says it was a startling discovery. He didn't intend to bring a loaded gun on a flight out of Houston and can't understand how TSA screeners didn't catch it.

Nearing the height of last year's Christmas travel season, TSA screeners at Bush Intercontinental Airport somehow missed a loaded pistol, one that was tucked away inside a carry-on computer bag.

"I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif said. "It's a .40 caliber gun."

Man boards plane at IAH with loaded gun in carry-on
I'm sure Mr. Seif obeyed all the instructions from the TSA agents. It would be nice if they were just useless, but sadly, the TSA are a danger to travelers, and they're an expensive one, at that. Their current budget (PDF - see page 24) is just shy of $7 billion. That could buy a lot of snow plows and de-icing fluid.

Based on the dates of those reports, these two incidents with TSA occurred roughly a week apart.

Why do I hate traveling in winter? Your fate is in the hands of airport administrators who don't think they need to have collapsed roofs beefed up to meet worst case winter conditions, airline logisticians who can't plan for a snow storm, and "security" people who couldn't find their asses with both hands and a big type copy of Gray's Anatomy.

Come to think of it, those are good reasons to avoid airline travel the rest of the year...

UPDATE: James Ala has a quote from a report about the man who managed to smuggle that gun through the TSA (in)security checks. It appears that the TSA does, as I expected, routinely miss these things. It's not the first such report, either.


Dana Hunter said...

Or the rest of our lives. Argh. Least we're safe and fairly warm, although wet, and not getting groped.

Cujo359 said...

In the absence of a palatable choice for who gets to grope me, yes, I'd prefer to remain where I am.

george.w said...

$7bn? Wow. That's almost exactly the size of the NSF budget that Eric Cantor wants random idiots off the street to vote on.

I don't like people touching me generally; I've learned to react appropriately when family members do, and some friends. Diane works with autistic kids and - I just don't know how they would cope.

We got some of the snow here. Very pretty but shoveling it reminds me which parts are original and which are repair jobs.

Cujo359 said...

It's a sign of some astonishing priorities, I think, when we're willing to spend as much on generally useless security procedures as we are on science. We get a lot more out of the NSF's $7B, I think, even if they do study some funny stuff.

I like snow, as long as I don't have to drive in it. That tends to limit its charm, I'm afraid.