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25 November 2009

Airlines Fined for Stranding Passengers Plus The Best Passenger Safety Briefing Ever

Three Airlines Fined for Stranding Passengers Overnight
Earlier this year on August 8th, Continental Express Flight 2816, which was en route from Houston to Minneapolis and carrying 47 passengers, was diverted to Rochester, Minnesota because of thunderstorms where it landed about 12:30 am. The passengers and crew ended up stranded on the aircraft for over seven hours because the terminal had already closed for the night, and the employees who could have opened the terminal refused to do so.

This event attracted national attention at the time, and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced yesterday that it would impose $175,000 in fines on the three airlines involved. Continental Airlines and its regional airline partner ExpressJet, which operated the flight for Continental, were each fined $50,000. Mesaba Airlines, which was responsible for operating the terminal at Rochester, Minnesota, was fined $75,000.

This was the first time that the DOT has fined airlines for stranding passengers on the tarmac, but by no means was this the first time that passengers have been stuck on the tarmac for long periods of time. Earlier this month, had an article about the delay statistics made available by the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The Best Passenger Safety Briefing Ever
When it comes to preflight passenger safety briefings, most passengers have sat through many of them, and most of them are not the least bit entertaining or memorable. The FAA does not dictate what information airlines should provide passengers during the preflight safety briefing. However, the FAA provides general guidance in Advisory Circular 121-24C, where one of the suggestions is that "The pretakeoff oral briefing should be given so that each passenger can clearly hear it and easily see required demonstrations. Flight attendants giving these briefings should speak slowly and distinctly."

Flight attendant David Holmes of Southwest Airlines created a preflight passenger briefing that ignored the advice about speaking slowly, and was both entertaining and memorable.

National Geographic Traveler published an extensive interview with David Holmes where he talked about his in-flight rapping. The following question and answer is the highlight of that interview.

National Geographic Traveler - The Federal Aviation Administration has some pretty strict requirements about in-flight safety announcements. How did you ensure that you met those, while still maintaining your artistic integrity?

David Holmes - Everything we have to say is carefully scripted for us -- all the safety information. As you know, one challenge is getting people to listen -- the other is making sure they have all the info. Why shouldn't it be fun?

Why not indeed.


  1. Fabulous! Made my Monday.

  2. Now there is one PRE-FLT Briefing that will keep you awake, a wnderful job. So nice to see a person that is happy in the workplace.