Sleeping in a Parked 767, Delta’s Gate Employees Were Ready for Work

Last week’s snowstorms brought out a host of questions, such as, what do airlines do to get staff to the airports and keep their planes safe during storms.  In the WSJ, I read a story about how Delta Air Lines set up a ‘war room’ and used their own planes as makeshift hotels for airport workers. Scott McCarthy wrote about this in his Middle Seat column.

At New York’s JFK airport, 15 employees rode out the storm in the comfort of a Boeing 767, a plane that features lie-flat beds in business class.  As the snow howled outside, they plugged into heat and electricity from the jetway and gate agents and some pilots snoozed in the comfort of the big business class seats instead of going home and trying to return in the storm.  Besides, their cars were snowed under with the massive snowfall.

There has been a lot of thought lately about where to position aircraft during and after snowstorms.  One consensus is to make the decision to cancel flights earlier–it used to be that travelers would all go to the airports and then find out about cancelled flights. Now even airlines like Southwest, who used to be reluctant about canceling, will make the call early so the planes can be flown to warmer climes instead of stuck on snow-covered tarmacs. You hardly ever see people sleeping overnight at airports since most people won’t even try leaving home to go to the airport.

McCarthy’s cited a new rule that fines airlines for stranding passengers more than three hours has forced them to be quicker to cancel flights and avoiding waiting until the storm has already happened.