Grounded on New Year's Eve

Airlines having a tough time filling seats forcing cancellation of many flights

Most Americans want to be on the ground when the clock strikes twelve his New Year’s Eve. Airlines can’t sell seats and are canceling more and more flights every day.

It may be the fear of computer Y2K bug or simply the fact that people want to stay home this holiday. Whatever the reason every airline is caught in the same place, without many passengers.

At least 20 percent of all flights will be cancelled this New Year’s Eve and some flights that are still on schedule will have less than 100 people.

There is one woman who wants to be in the air this New Year’s Eve, but she can’t find a flight, they’re all cancelled. Fed eral Aviation Administration director, Jane Garvey, pledged to be in the air at midnight. Garvey wants to prove she’s confident there will be no Y2K problems. But she is finding another problem altogether, booking a flight.

Garvey first booked American Airlines Flight 1799 from Reagan National Airport, into Dallas and eventually connecting to San Francisco. However a few weeks ago that flight was cancelled due to lack of interest. Garvy rebooked, this time on an earlier flight. The same problem, not enough passengers, the flight was grounded.

She’s now on her third reservation and that’s not looking too promising. American Flight 1099 is supposed to put her in California a few minutes after midnight. Right now the flight is still scheduled but that could change. Only 25 people are booked on the flight, and most of them members of the media.

Garvey is just going to have to wait it out and see if that flight will take off on schedule. Garvey wants to be in the air when the New Year rolls in to prove her point that the airlines are Y2K compliant, she may have to make her point watching from the ground.

It’s not just American Airlines canceling New Year flights. United Airlines has eliminated 22 percent of its regularly scheduled flights on December 31. Virgin Atlantic Airways is grounding its entire fleet starting at midday on December 31. Frontier Airlines usually has 94 flights a day, 34 will be cancelled on New Year’s Eve. None of the flights will take off after 9 p.m. because nobody wanted to fly at that time.

At first glance it may look like people are afraid of Y2K and won’t fly for fear of computer problems. However, a recent poll found that less than 10 percent of potential travelers said safety was a concern. Most just wanted to spend the night at home or out with friends, not flying from one destination to the next.

DATE: 11/22/99

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