Sunday, February 21, 2016

‘Cape Air violated federal regs between 2014, 2015’

The Senate has drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation to federal regulations they believe United/Cape Air has violated during a “heavy maintenance period” between 2014 and 2015 that saw hundreds of passengers flying to and from Guam affected by a series of cancelled and delayed flights.

Sens. Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan) and Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) point federal officials to the regulations of “on time performance,” “flight service notification,” and “unrealistic scheduling regulations” that they believe the airlines has violated, in a letter to the transportation department on Feb. 17.

“In our opinion, Cape Air violated all three applicable regulations,” the senators said.

On “on time performance,” the senators said Cape Air flight delays ranged from three to 10 hours, with cancellations lasting from one to several days. The delays and cancellations occurred weekly and sometimes a couple times a week or daily during Cape Air’s heavy maintenance period, they add.

Palacios and Igisomar acknowledge that while the delay or cancellations may not have occurred more than half of the time of its flights, every delay caused “economic hardship” and “personal suffering” on passengers.

“If Cape Air’s connecting flight from Saipan to Hawaii is cancelled, the person cannot leave until the next day,” the senators said. “That means the person will miss his meeting or be late his meeting or whatever planned occasion for which he was traveling.

“Medical referral patients,” they add,” have missed many appointments too due to Cape Air’s flight delays and/or cancellations. If a businessman is trying to get back to Saipan from Guam and his flight is cancelled, that’s another day of economic loss or lost business opportunities.”

The senators also lament the irregular and sporadic flight status notifications during Cape Air’s heavy maintenance period, and write that sometimes passengers receive an email or a phone call on delays or cancellations but sometimes, not at all until the passenger reaches the airport.

They write that passengers are even allowed to check in at the airport when a flight is delayed up to six hours or more, before they are told the flight is cancelled due to mechanical problems.

“Passengers spend countless hours waiting,” the senators write.

The senators also believe the airlines set up an “unrealistic scheduling” of flights

The senators write that the nine-month period was a very long time to be flying one plane, and that mechanical and other problems would be expected with one plane flying five times a day.

“The problem was that Cape Air did not have an alternative flight plan for its one aircraft,” Palacios and Igisomar said. “Cape Air failed to reduce its flights when the mechanical problems started.

“It maintained the same flight schedule knowing that it would be difficult if not impossible to maintain,” they add. “Even when the delays and cancellations were back to back each week, Cape Air failed to change its flight schedule.

The senators further lament that United Airlines, code-share partners with Cape Air, would only step in to assist passengers when all five daily Cape Air flights were cancelled or when several flights were cancelled for two days or more.

The senators argue that Cape Air should have scheduled only three flights or less per day instead of attempting five flights a day with one plane. United also should have flown a jet plane to Saipan at least once a week to alleviate the backlog of passengers, they add.

“Instead, Cape Air ‘unrealistically’ continued with its scheduled flights from which it could not reasonably make due,” the senators said.

The senators closed the letter by saying they look forward to receiving information on filing a consumer complaint against the United Airlines and Cape Air, and said they will continue to compile passenger complaints the senators have received since 2014 over the unreliable and poor service during the airlines’ heavy maintenance period.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.saipantribune.com