If you were flying this weekend you may have already encountered the new federal rules about pilot and flight crew schedules, which kicked into effect Saturday. There was a crash in 2009 outside of Buffalo that was linked to pilot fatigue, and the Department of Transportation mandated more rest in between flights.
Maybe that's necessary, and maybe it's not, but the change was described as the most significant scheduling overhaul in the era of commercial flight. USA Today quoted a memo written by JetBlue vice president Marisa Von Wieding: "everything we know about planning for and operating in winter storms, de-ice events, spring thunderstorms, summer rolling [air-traffic control delay] programs and hurricane season will change on some level." The Wall Street Journal nicely summed up the results based on one weekend's worth of evidence: "the travel impact of the heavy snow and frigid weather... was intensified by new airline-pilot rest rules."
So it's not really a question of if lawmakers will try to ruin air travel, but how.
To take one example, the budget deal cut at the end of last year has hiked up your security fees by more than double. The changes should go into effect on July 1. This is a change that some lawmakers have been trying to lock in for quite literally years - why make difficult budget choices when you can generate revenue by taxing travelers - and they've been consistently blocked. Not this time.
There are a few other fights over travel fees brewing as well. Congress, in its wisdom, is considering taxing the fees that travelers already pay to airlines. Those costs, of course, will be passed on to the rest of us, but the federal government will at least see a very short-term spike in revenue until everyone adjusts to the higher prices.
Plus ça change and all that.
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