Riding the rails in Japan, China – Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Are Japanese bullet trains coming to the US? This is a question I’ve seen being asked more than once in the media this week. Now, to be fair, I may have started this buzz by riding a couple of Japan’s…
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More about my trip (and then I will let it go): the first thing to remember is that, thanks to Congress and airline deregulation, you have practically no rights as a passenger. If they cancel your flight and delay you for days, well, you have no recourse. They have you at their mercy:
Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. Each carrier differs in its policy and there are no federal requirements for passenger compensation. Most airlines will book you on the next available flight if your flight is canceled. If your plane is delayed, the airline may pay for meals or a phone call, so it’s worth asking. Some will offer no amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or other conditions beyond their control. Compensation is required by law only if you are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold (discussed below).
Editor’s Note: If you are traveling in the European Union, you do have the right to compensation if your flight is canceled or delayed, but only under certain circumstances. If the airline can claim “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken” — this could include weather, political instability, security issues and other similar situations — the airline does not have to provide compensation. For more information, visit the European Union’s Web site.
In short: Congress represents the powerful interests and not you. So, the only power we have is to inform each other about the poor performance of the airlines and to not to use the bad ones. So, that is what I am doing.
Also, if so inclined, you can push for your elected leaders to develop other types of transportation to compete with the airlines so as to drive these lousy companies out of business.
I should point out that my story is not isolated; most of the other non-Southwest Airline carries pretty much suck too.
About 26,000 people responded to the survey during the first quarter of this year, rating their level of satisfaction as customers of companies in a variety of industries, including airlines. An American Customer Satisfaction Index, on a scale of 1 to 100, was created based on the responses to questions about overall satisfaction, intention to be a repeat customer and perception of quality, value and expectations.
The index for the airline industry as a whole fell to 62 from 63 last year, barely above its historical low of 61 in 2001. Southwest led the way with an index of 79, up from 76 last year.
“We’re always excited and thrilled that we can offer some of the best customer service in the industry,” Southwest spokeswoman Christi Day said.
After Southwest came a huge drop in customer satisfaction, with scores of 62 at AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Continental. Delta Air Lines Inc. scored 60, and Northwest Airlines Corp. slipped to 57 from 61 in 2007. US Airways’ score dropped to 54 from 61 a year ago, taking over the bottom spot from United, whose score held at 56.
My story: I submitted it here (where you can read other stories)
Just the facts: I was flying from Austin, TX to Peoria, IL via Dallas. The Austin to Dallas flight left at 4:30; when we got to Dallas we find out that the Dallas to Peoria flight is canceled (due to fog). Ok, that happens.
But American’s response was terrible.
1. The dense fog had settled in prior to the Austin flight leaving; why weren’t we notified at the gate? It is better to be stuck at the start of the trip rather than at a midway point.
2. Only one gate agent was available to deal with this whole flight. We were given a number to call and the operator seemed to not understand that being stuck in a midway point of the trip for 48 hours was unacceptable.
3. When I did finally get a gate agent, he didn’t read the computer correctly; he said that we were rebooked on a flight leaving the next day when in fact it was two days later.
4. Of course, we had to pay for our overnight accommodations even though AA’s scheduling policies were in part responsible for our being delayed for so long.
5. Finally the next day I manage to rebook a flight that got me 90 miles away; fortunately I had someone to give us a ride. We would have been up a creek without that.
6. Of course, the luggage didn’t make it to the final destination.
I find it absurd that one has to have an extra 100-150 dollars extra for the trip because AA couldn’t deliver what they promised to deliver.
I wish I had done what I have done in the past: drive 2.5 hours to a larger airport, pay the parking fees and to have flown Southwest. I’ve never had a problem with Southwest.
The problems go beyond this incompetent, uncaring airline. Some of these carriers need to go out of business and we, as a country, need to develop alternate forms of transportation.
Maybe, just maybe in a few years, we can get alternate transportation and end up putting pathetic airlines such as American Airlines out of business for good!
There’s been a lot of talk in Washington and the media lately that one way for the federal government to give the economy a boost would be to start making massive investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Such spending would both create jobs in the short term and give the U.S. the kind of infrastructure to build its economy around in the future.
In that vein, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would allow bonds to be issued to raise more than $23 billion for high-speed rail projects around the country. Some of that money — it’s not clear exactly how much — could be used on the proposal to build a high-speed rail line in California. Here’s a link to a story about the bill in the Boston Globe.
That is interesting, of course, since voters here earlier this month approved Proposition 1A, which allows the state to issue $9.95 billion in bonds to plan and construct a high-speed rail line. It’s not nearly enough to finish the proposed line from Anaheim to San Francisco — the California High Speed Rail Authority said recently the cost will be $33 billion; critics say it will be much more.
Still, the federal bill is worth watching. If it passes, it would arguably be a boost for passenger rail along some Amtrak corridors after decades of the nation making heavy investments in the nation’s airports and highways.
The press release from Kerry’s office is after the jump.
The press release on the Kerry-Specter high-speed rail bill:
Kerry-Specter Bill Would Create Jobs, Stimulus, Infrastructure Investment
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Ed Rendell Applaud National High-Speed Rail Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to create new jobs by updating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 would transform America’s outdated and underfunded passenger rail system into a world class system.
“At a time when our economy desperately needs a jumpstart, we need an effective national investment that puts Americans back to work,” said Sen. Kerry. “A first-rate rail system would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again. The High-Speed Rail for America Act will help fix our crumbling infrastructure system, expand our economy, and match high-tech rail systems across the globe.”
“We must continue to focus our energies on building and maintaining a strong national passenger rail system in order to ease congestion of air and highway corridors connecting high-growth markets, as well as to meet energy and environmental goals,” said Sen. Specter. “The High-Speed Rail for America Act is an investment in our nation’s infrastructure and has the potential to provide tremendous economic opportunities throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.”
Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Joe Lieberman (I-CT.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), cosponsored the legislation.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell both voiced their support for the high-speed rail initiative.
“Creating a national high-speed rail network is an ambitious goal, but one that gets more urgent by the day,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Investing in modern infrastructure is vital to the nation’s long-term economic and environmental health – and in the short-term, it would help put more Americans back to work. Many countries in Europe and Asia are investing in high-speed rail, and if our economy is going to remain competitive, we have to start catching up. Greater investment in our railways is a top goal of Building America’s Future, the infrastructure coalition that Governors Rendell and Schwarzenegger and I created. I applaud Senator Kerry for tackling the issue head-on, and I strongly support his efforts to create the high-speed rail network our country needs.”
“This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Gov. Rendell, one of the founding co-chairs of the Building America’s Future coalition. “Expanding our nation’s critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment.”
The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 which reauthorizes Amtrak and authorizes $1.5 billion over a five-year period to finance the construction and equipment for eleven high-speed rail corridors. It provides billions of dollars in both tax-exempt and tax credit bond and provides assistance for rail projects of various speeds. The bill creates the Office of High-Speed passenger rail to oversee the development of high-speed rail and provides a consistent source of funding.
Specifically, the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 provides $8 billion over a six-year period for tax-exempt bonds which finance high-speed rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour It creates a new category of tax-credit bonds – qualified rail bonds. There are two types of qualified rail bonds: super high-speed intercity rail facility bond and rail infrastructure bond. Super high-speed rail intercity facility bonds will encourage the development of true high-speed rail. The legislation provides $10 billion for these bonds over a ten-year period. This would help finance the California proposed corridor and make needed improvements to the Northeast corridor. The legislation provides $5.4 billion over a six-year period for rail infrastructure bonds. The Federal Rail Administration has already designated ten rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities up and down the East Coast.
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