Down to Business: Flight delays and their impact in Albany

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

Rest assured that should you get caught up in current air travel delays, you’ll still be able to access your parked car at Albany International Airport’s economy lot.

Let me explain.

A trip outbound to Kansas City via Baltimore last week to see old friends went without a hitch. News reports of thousands of delayed and canceled flights over the Memorial Day weekend still lingered, but we encountered no hiccups.

Until our Saturday return, that was.

FlightAware, the global flight-tracking service, counted more than 16,000 total delays that day, with 6,000 alone involving travel into, within, or out of the U.S. My attention was on just one, though: Our unexpected three-hour layover in Baltimore.

Why it occurred, I’ll never know, but I suspect a mechanical culprit, since it looked originally like we were to join passengers on a flight headed to Albany from Florida. Instead, all of us lined up for a later-arriving plane.

Weather, mechanicals and operational issues (think pilot shortage) often are cited these days for delays and cancellations. Also contributing, according to the airlines, is the welcome but unexpectedly quick rebound in consumer demand. That has led, seemingly counterintuitively, to carriers cutting summer flight schedules to curb demand and alleviate delays.

FlightAware numbers show some of the biggest domestic airlines delaying as many as a quarter to a third of flights last weekend. Cancellations were low at about 1% of flights.

More than 200 delays occurred at the Baltimore airport on Saturday, according to FlightAware. (On one departure board, I saw a flight to Boston rescheduled from 9:40 p.m. to 1:50 a.m. Sunday.)

Many fewer happen at Albany International Airport, where spokesman Doug Myers says the delays have no budget impact.

No late fees are charged for a delayed flight, he said, and while a cancellation means no landing-fee revenue, the airport budgets those fees to accounts for cancellations.

Myers likened the airport to a commercial landlord that provides space and amenities to tenants in return for rent, with the tenants running their business as they see fit.

Thus the overseeing Albany County Airport Authority provides “an operational airport and all terminal and airfield facilities,” Myers said, but it “does not manage the routine operation of airline staff and flights. That is the responsibility of each airline.”

So when a scheduled departure or arrival is delayed, he said, it’s the airline crews that handle the flight, from boarding to ticketing to baggage – not airport employees.

The airport is open 24/7, with most flights taking place between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m.

That means that if you were to park in the off-site economy lot at 3:30 a.m. for a 5 a.m. flight, the terminal shuttle would be available.

And it was at the ready last weekend — Whew! — to take us to our car as we arrived in the wee hours of Sunday from Baltimore.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].

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