WSU Newsline: Holiday air travel can test a flier's patience
Thursday, November 19, 2009 3:22 PM

The scripts are available for printing and for sound bite identification.

Air travel during the holiday season is challenging enough, but with fewer flights and uncertain weather, travelers will face a dilemma anytime a flight is late or gets delayed. Dean Headley, co-author of the national Airline Quality Rating at Wichita State University, looks at some of the unique challenges facing air travelers during the holidays.

Voice wrap:
Announcer: Flying can be difficult enough under the best of circumstances, but flying during the holidays can create a whole new level of stress for travelers. Dean Headley, co-author of the national Airline Quality Rating at Wichita State University, explains some of the challenges in flying during the holidays.

Headley: "Well, fliers are just going to find fewer airplanes to be in, fewer seats available to buy. The system is constricted considerably over the last couple of years, and we just don't have that many seats for people to buy anymore."

Announcer: The good news is that with fewer flights the industry's operating record is improving. However, Headley says the bad news is that if the weather or other issues delay or cancel your flight, you may have trouble finding an open seat on a connecting flight because there isn't a lot of flexibility. In other words, if things don't go according to plan, the deck is stacked against you. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.

Sound bite #1
Headley says holiday travel by air can especially be challenging when flights are delayed and canceled. The sound bite is 25 seconds and the outcue is "in the system."

Headley: "Even though you may be able to find a seat and get an airline ticket, you're going to have problems with the weather — December's classically bad weather in most of the hub airports. And if you do get a flight, and everything goes reasonably close to plan, and you get that one weather glitch, you won't be able to find a plane seat to get you out of that delayed or canceled flight. There just isn't any slack in the system."

Sound bite #2
Headley says the on-time performance of airlines in 2008 was considerably worse in December than September, October and November. The sound bite is 22 seconds and the outcue is "in December."

Headley: "When you look at on-time performance in the fall months — September, October, November in 2008, that was all around 80-85 percent for an industry. In December, that dropped to 65 percent. And we've looked at September and October so far for this year, and it's in the mid-80s as well or higher, so I'm expecting that the pattern will hold true and that percentage on time will drop off dramatically in December."

Sound bite #3
Headley says the deck is stacked against air travelers during the holidays. The sound bite is 27 seconds and the outcue is "heavy months of travel."

Headley: "The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — everybody has to be there on a certain day, a certain time. There's not a lot of flexibility as to when. So if you get a ticket, you have fewer seats. They're all full. Things go wrong. There's no seats to take up the slack. You get bad weather that's going to make things go wrong. You just kind of have the deck stacked against you for your outcome to be as you would like on a reliable basis during those heavy months of travel."

Sound bite #4
Headley says traveling during the winter holiday season likely means traveling with some passengers who are under the weather. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "you can do."

Headley: "The airplane will probably have some people that are in various stages of health problems. The one you really have to worry about is in your seat next to you or in your row. Airplane air is fine, it's filtered and it does just fine, but taking precautions for yourself and hoping that other people take precautions is about the best thing you can do."

Sound bite #5
Headley says the airlines are not a public health department; they're in the business of selling seats. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "of the traveler."

Headley: "Folks will probably travel sick. There's no way around that. It's the winter season and people will have various colds and maybe even the flu. Airlines don't really care. They want to sell a seat. They're not a public health department, so they'll want to sell the seat. They're not looking out for the general public health of the traveler."

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Contact: Dean Headley, (316) 978-3367 or dean.headley@wichita.edu.
Created on Nov 19, 2009 3:22 PM; Last modified on Nov 23, 2009 9:00 AM