Sunday, July 7, 2013


No plan for planes

Catching up on the news Sunday morning I learn that a plane crash at San Francisco’s airport (SFO) caused cancelled flights across the country.

I live close to two major airports: Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA).

The local tv stations sent people to interview stranded travelers, asking what they were going to do until flights to SFO resumed.

Not one traveler – not one – planned to do anything other than “hunker down” either at the south Florida airport or at a nearby lodging.

If I had been booked on an SFO-bound flight I would be talking to the airline’s representatives to get a flight to LA or Seattle.

Ahh, but that’s not San Francisco.

BUT, there are planes to Oakland and San Jose ( ground transportation can be arranged from both places to The City – West.

There are trains from LA and Seattle. The Amtrak train from LA leaves from LAX, the main airport. There is a Caltrain from San Jose’s SJC airport into San Francisco ( and many options for the short hop from Oakland to The City..

The airport at Oakland, across the bay from The City, hosts a number of airlines that fly from south Florida, including Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and US Air.

There are a number of airlines offering flights into SJC, including flights from south Florida with American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air, and Virgin America.

The flights into both Oakland and San Jose probably will be “via” someplace else with longer runways, but at least there are options.

All the above was discovered using Dogpile searches; Google would have worked as well.

Granted, those of us who are so primitive we don’t have smart phones and data plans would have to pay to access Wi-Fi at MIA (it’s free at FLL), but the information is readily available.

The airlines (are supposed to) have alternate destinations in the event the primary destination – in this case, San Francisco – cannot accommodate the flight.

The flight crews (are supposed to) a list of alternate airports that can accommodate their aircraft in its current configuration (landing and gate requirements).

In the “old days” airlines were more accommodating; they valued their customers and treasured repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising; the airlines actually worked with the passengers to get them to their destinations safely and on time.

Business travelers need to know their options before booking a flight. What is the airline willing to do if something “goes boom in the night” as it did at SFO. Will the airline make arrangements to get the passenger to an alternate nearby airport (OAK, SJC)? Will there be an extra charge? Closing an airport is not something the airline can control, but the situation at SFO was not an “act of God” that lets the airline out of its contract obligation to deliver passengers to their destination on time.

Business travelers, causal travelers as well, especially if connecting flights are involved, need to know their options well in advance so that if something interrupts their plans, an alternate plan is already at hand.

Flight interruptions never are “black swans.” They happen all too frequently for altogether too many reasons; they are a fact of life.

It’s simply Risk Management 101 – Have an alternate plan (better, alternate plans, plural).

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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