A tragic story of two Chinese tourists critically injured enroute from Baltimore to New York on a bus chartered by American Airlines is a perfect example of why airlines should not offer bus service.
- AA flight from Minneapolis to New York La Guardia (LGA) diverts to Baltimore (BWI) due to poor weather
- AA chartered bus to take passengers on 200-mile journey to New York
- With whiteout/blackout conditions and traffic accidents further north, after 10 hours the bus had traveled only 30 miles
- Bridge closure forced bus to turn around
- The bus stopped at a rest area with a McDonald’s, Applebee’s, and Shoprite grocery store
- Food and water not provisioned on bus
- Chinese couple onboard ventured over to Shoprite, found it closed
- In walking back to bus, they jaywalked and were struck by an oncoming vehicle
- Bus was about to leave without them when one passenger noted they had not re-boarded and told driver to wait
- She found the Chinese couple had already been transported to a local hospital
- Bus driver did not contact AA: instead simply began journey back to BWI
- Back in Baltimore, she took their personal items, found their checked bags, and did her best to track down their family
- At the time, AA only offered to pay for a one-way cab ride to the hospital
- She found the couple, who were in critical condition, and waited with them until their son arrived from New York
- The following day she reached out to American Airlines to explain the incident and was offered a $500 voucher as a “gesture of gratitude” for helping customer
- Voucher amount was later raised to $700
Is AA on the hook for these damages?
Probably not. I don’t think a traffic accident caused by jaywalking is a reasonably foreseeable result. Even so, I expect a lawsuit of some kind.
But that’s note the point. The point is this couple was critically injured on a trip that should not have occurred in the first place. Yes, they made the mistake of crossing the road in the wrong place. But should airlines charter busses when the weather outside is so bad?
Why Airlines Should Just Not Offer Bus Service During Inclement Weather
My answer is no, airlines should not charter bus service. I get why AA did it in this case and airlines around the world do it. It is laudable that AA wanted to get passengers to their destination, New York City, as quickly as possible.
But think about it. When weather conditions are so bad that flights are grounded, are the roads any safer? What is an acceptable risk quotient to subject passengers to dangerous conditions on a road–often far more dangerous conditions than in the air?
We can blame AA all day long for dropping the ball here. They did not provide food and water for passengers, they probably failed to even check Google Maps before departing to see that it would be a futile journey, and they proved unaccountable for keeping track of their passengers.
For all the reward of getting passengers home a few hours earlier, I simply do not think it is worth the risk.
I’ll fly on the most “janky” airlines, but there is no way I am getting on a bus in the middle of a fierce storm. I guess we all weigh risk/reward differently. But it just seems to me that sending out busses during fierce storms is always a recipe for disaster. While I always have a personal solution (just don’t board the bus), I fear that even offering this bus service opens up passengers to unnecessary harm and airlines to unnecessary liability.