I am supposed to be in Michigan right now at the Communities and Technologies conference, an event I’ve been planning to attend for quite some time. However, on Wednesday afternoon my flight on Northwest Airlines was canceled, along with the rest of the flights for that day. The excuse given was weather, which was understandable with thunderstorms affecting both areas. I did not know until I returned home that NWA has been plagued with cancellations all week:
Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines Corp. has seen a surge in cancellations since last Friday. It has blamed air traffic control restrictions, severe weather earlier this month that required pilots to rack up more time and an unusually high number of pilots calling in sick. But the Northwest branch of the Air Line Pilots Association contends the underlying problem is that the airline simply doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its full schedule anymore.
Since the C&T conference is at Michigan State University in Lansing, many of the participants were flying through Detroit—NWA’s hub. I know of two other people who were unable to make it to the conference because of NWA, and in all cases it was either weather- or servicing-related incidents that caused the cancellation. I feel sorry for the organizers of C&T who have no control over the airline industry and must be beholden to these random incidents.
This event has made me realize the need for an airline passengers’ bill of rights. Right now airlines can give any excuse necessary to cancel a flight without issuing a refund. I am now stuck with a $200 ticket to Detroit that will probably go unused in the 1-year time frame necessary to transfer the flight. I cannot think of another industry with such an under-regulated marketplace that would allow fraudulent transactions such as this one to take place.
Suffice to say, I’m shorting NWA’s stock.