Phone rang again at noon: United had cancelled my flight. I had to go back to the airport to get some paperwork from Hertz and learned that all airlines had cancelled all flights out of State College because of the dense fog. So, I decided to drive to Pittsburgh where I had more options. This was especially true since thunderstorms in Chicago were going to cause major flight disruptions that evening.
Next morning, I awaken in my Pittsburgh hotel: Flight cancelled. The aircraft did not come in from Chicago until the night before. I eventually had to fly to Houston then back north to Wichita and got home Wednesday evening.
- If my aircraft wasn't able to come in the night before, why did United wait until 6:55am EST to cancel the flight? By waiting until the next morning, my options significantly narrowed and I missed a planned dinner that I didn't need to miss. The airlines seem to be decades behind in terms of information technology and customer service.
- The problem in State College Tuesday afternoon was fog only. Winds calm. No thunderstorms or even showers. No ice on runway. What is known as a Category III Approach -- which allows airplanes to land in even zero visibility -- was perfected more than two decades ago. I checked with an aviation expert as to why these have not become widespread and he said they were "too expensive." In every other industry, technology has become more capable and less expensive in the last twenty years. He also told me that this technology was much more widespread in Europe than in the United States.
As I have said so many times before, the U.S. airlines seem stuck in the late 1980's. Why? One would think that using advanced technology would give the first airline to deploy it a significant competitive and cost advantage along with very happy customers.