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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: air travel

Anti-Mask Passengers Endangering Flight Attendants And Other Travelers

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As the U.S. passes the grim milestone of 20 million COVID-19 cases, much of the world is bracing for a stunning surge in the virus' spread, courtesy of millions who ignored public health recommendations and traveled for the recent holidays. The deadly virus didn't stop more than seven million people from flying during the week before Christmas, and that's just in the United States.

Those numbers represent just a fraction of typical holiday travel numbers, back in the days before COVID-19. Airlines, of course, are bleeding money, and their employees have faced reduced hours, layoffs, furloughs, and buyouts for the better part of a year. Concurrently, denial of the absolutely-real pandemic is rampant, particularly among the Trumpian right, who have seen their soon-to-be ousted leader and his acolytes politicize and ridicule the wearing of facial coverings to help thwart spread of the novel coronavirus.

With these facts in mind, it should come as no surprise that many of those who might be willing to board a plane in a pandemic might also be unwilling to don a mask. A stunning new analysis from The Washington Post's Michael Laris indicates that airline workers—much like retail workers who were violently assaulted, treated like a Kleenex, and even killedfor daring to ask people to comply with mask requirements—are facing abuse at the hands of reckless air travelers.

In a review of "more than 150 aviation safety reports filed with the federal government since the start of the pandemic," The Post found that passengers of the anti-mask stripe boldly exploit the allowance to remove masks while eating and drinking.

Asked to mask up, one passenger pulled out a large bag of popcorn and nibbled her way through it, kernel by kernel, stymieing the cabin crew for the length of the flight. Others blew off requests by chomping leisurely on apple slices, between occasional coughs, or lifting an empty plastic cup and declaring: "I am drinking!"

Another report describes an unmasked man who charged up the aisle, stopping just 18 inches from a flight attendant. "He sneezed directly in my face, making no attempt to cover his mouth, pull up his mask or turn towards the row 1 window," lamented the employee, who was, thankfully, wearing a mask that caught the brunt of the man's sinus explosion.

Airlines, of course, are quick to note such reports, and thus anti-mask passengers behaving badly, are quite rare—claiming otherwise could deter travel by those who understand that masks work. But Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist and Carnegie Mellon professor, begs to differ, telling The Post that "if you see 100 (reports), there are probably 1,000 or 10,000. This is a widespread enough phenomenon that it needs to be taken seriously."

COVID denier-in-chief Donald Trump and his administration don't even support mask mandates at cocktail parties, much less on the federal front. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao repeatedly has quashed calls for mask requirements on public transportation.

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to ask the nation to mask up for at least his first 100 days in office; he also plans to issue a first-day mask mandate in federal buildings and on interstate trains, planes, and buses.

Whether or not people will comply remains to be seen.

Four Savvy Tips To Find Low-Cost Airfare For Your Next Trip

Everyone loves a good deal. Almost everyone loves to travel. It only makes sense that the intersection of the two, in good travel deals, would appeal to a very wide audience.

Airlines, however, have made finding a good deal difficult. In 2008, airlines began charging fees on checked baggage. Although they suffered from bad publicity at the time, the airlines knew that if they held their ground, passengers would eventually accept the additional fees. They were right. A generation of travelers has grown up with these fees and now accept them as part of the cost of flying. These baggage fees have turned into a $5 billion profit center for the airlines.

Similarly, shortly after the terrorist attacks and wars in the Middle East caused the price of oil to spike in the early 2000s, airlines imposed “fuel surcharges” on all airline tickets. Even though the price of jet fuel has stabilized and crude oil costs less than a third of what it did at its peak in 2008, the fuel surcharges (now called carrier fees) are still assessed on every airline ticket.

These fees and surcharges make it that much more important to find the best fare possible. Here are some ways to find low-cost airplane tickets:

Be Flexible About When You Fly

Supply and demand dictate the price of airline tickets. Whether an airline sells one ticket or 140 tickets on a flight, that airplane has to fly. The airline has to make sure that flight is as profitable as possible because fuel costs, crew expenses, and taxes must be paid regardless of the number of passengers. Consequently, fares will always be lower on flights that are undersold, and higher on flights that are oversold.

Certain days of the week and times of year are less expensive to fly. These will vary by destination, again according to supply and demand. For example, flights to Chicago for Presidents Day weekend might be cheap, while flights to Miami for the same weekend in February might be very expensive.

Most people who travel for work or pleasure fly at the beginning of the week or the end of the week. As a result, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays usually see fewer travelers (and fewer airline tickets sold) than Mondays and Fridays. Airlines will often cut prices to sell tickets for flights in the middle of the week to try to fill those airplanes. Flying on a holiday, like on Presidents Day, can save money since most people prefer to fly before or after a holiday.

Unfortunately, burglars can also use the popularity of Friday through Monday travel to target your home. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds in the United States. Many of these burglars case your home and your social media timeline to make sure you are not home when they strike. When you travel, make sure your social media is set to private or that you avoid posting about your travels until you return home.

Use Online Resources

Search sites for airline tickets provide a wealth of information about ticket pricing. Kayak, for example, shows pricing trends so you know whether you should buy or wait to buy based on whether the ticket price has increased or decreased.

Skyscanner provides information on the carbon output of flights, so you can account for the environmental impact of your flight choices in addition to the price. And Travelzoo allows you to search over a range of dates to find those hidden cheap flights on a Tuesday morning that you might otherwise miss.

Be aware, however, of scam sites that are not real travel booking sites. Scam sites collect your personal information and either use your payment card to run up bills or steal your identity to obtain new payment cards and credit accounts. Do your research on these sites and, above all else, be wary. Nearly 50 percent of consumers think that their security habits make them vulnerable to identity theft or other information frauds.

Time Your Purchase

As mentioned above, Kayak offers a feature that allows you to see the price trend for airfares. However, these price trends may be influenced by many factors, such as holidays, travel seasons, natural disasters, and oil prices. Summer, for example, has higher airfares to tourist destinations, while airfare may drop after a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Barring unexpected events, the window for finding good deals on domestic flights is usually one to three months before the flight and two to eight months for international flights. One strategy would be to begin monitoring airfares before this window begins to get an idea of the starting price. This allows you to identify a good deal as you monitor the airfares during the recommended window. But beware of waiting too long. When you see a price you like, you should snap it up because ticket prices can jump suddenly.

Check Regional Airports

Sometimes you will be able to fly into another airport close to your destination and rent a car or take a train for less than flying direct. For example, Sanford Airport, 24 miles from Orlando, is often cheaper to fly into than Orlando International Airport. Likewise, airlines often have less expensive fares to Baltimore than Washington D.C. Since Baltimore and Washington are connected by rail, flying to Baltimore is often a cheap alternative to flying directly to the nation’s capital.

Some airfare booking sites allow you to search for alternative airports. Checking the box to include regional airports in your search can save tens, and sometimes hundreds, of dollars on airline tickets.

Finding good deals on airfares is facilitated by good online tools. Moreover, knowledge about the days of the week and times of the year to travel, as well as alternative airports available for travel, can save you money the next time you fly. You might even save enough to stay an extra day at your destination.

Excuse Me. So Sorry. Excuse Me…

Until this week, I’d never witnessed this on a plane.

I’d read numerous stories and essays about passengers trying to shame seat-mates for their weight, but I was not prepared for what that sounds like or how it looks.

We were a full plane, except for a single open seat in first class. I was seated in the immediate row behind that section and had a clear view of the remaining spot. I fly a lot but usually not with this airline. My upgrade was as likely as my exiting the plane a foot taller than when I had boarded.

A man three rows back thought he should sit there, and not because he had paid for it or qualified as a frequent flyer. His “circumstances” entitled him to it, he said, because he was seated next to a large man.

I didn’t know his reason at first. I heard the airline attendant patiently explaining how upgrades work and thought nothing more of it. A few minutes later, that same passenger started yelling at the attendant to take a picture with his phone. That’s when I pulled out my notebook. A columnist’s habit.

“Take it,” he said, holding out his phone. “Take a picture of us to show how ridiculous it is to make me sit next to him. Look at him. Why should I have to sit here?”

Several of us whipped around, and at least a couple of passengers sitting closest to him made disapproving sounds. The man did not care. “Take the picture,” he said, his face growing redder. He pointed to the passenger next to him. “Take the picture of us so that I can prove what happened here.”

The passenger he was attempting to humiliate was still and quiet, staring straight ahead. The airline attendant remained calm, explaining that he could not take a picture of both of them. “If you want a photo of yourself, hand me your camera,” he said, “but I can’t photograph another passenger.”

The angry man finally gave up, but the damage had been done — and nobody can explain why better than Tommy Tomlinson.

Tommy has been a reporter, columnist and essayist for about three decades and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005. Like countless others, I am proud to be his friend because he is also a kind and gentle man. His recent book, The Elephant in the Room, chronicles his lifelong struggle with obesity.

In an excerpt published earlier this year in The Atlantic, he describes taking a crowded subway in New York City, scared that he might fall and hurt somebody. “None of them could take my weight,” he writes. “It would be an avalanche. Some of them stare at me, and I figure they’re thinking the same thing. An old woman is sitting three feet away. One slip and I’d crush her. I grip the pole harder.

“My palms start to sweat, and all of a sudden I flash back to elementary school in Georgia, standing in the aisle on the school bus. The driver hollers at me to find a seat. He can’t take us home until everybody sits down. I’m the only one standing. Every time I spot an open space, somebody slides to the edge of the seat and covers it up. Nobody wants the fat boy mashed in next to them. I freeze, helpless. The driver glares at me in the rearview mirror. An older kid sitting in front of me — a redhead, freckles, I’ll never forget his face — has a cast on his right arm. He reaches back and starts clubbing me with it, below the waist, out of the driver’s line of sight. He catches me in the groin and it hurts, but not as much as the shame when the other kids laugh and the bus driver gets up and storms toward me—

“and the train stops and jolts me back into now.”

Sharing cramped public spaces is often uncomfortable. Impatience can sneak up on us like black mold, turning us into someone we don’t recognize and quickly leave behind. But anytime we try to shame someone else, only one of us gets to walk away and act as if it never happened.

After our flight landed, I joined the long line of passengers waiting for a gate-checked bag. I was on the lookout for the man on the receiving end of that passenger’s rage. I just wanted to smile at him, and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one.

He just looked down at his feet as he walked. “Excuse me. So sorry. Excuse me,” he said — all the way up the ramp.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Knowing Who’s On Your Airplane

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that the feds have screened the other passengers sitting on my airplane. To do that, they also have to screen me. That’s the deal.

In America, any state-issued driver’s license had long been acceptable ID for passing security checks at airports. That lax attitude changed after Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists turned four commercial jetliners full of passengers into missiles, killing thousands more on the ground. All four planes took off from U.S. airports.

On the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the Real ID Act. It tightens standards for state driver’s licenses used to board flights. Among other information, applicants must provide their Social Security number and immigration status. The licenses must also contain a chip or other technology that can be read by a computer. The deadline for compliance is approaching.

Some states have done their duty and issued secure driver’s licenses. Others have made enough progress that their licenses are acceptable for the time being. And a few states — Washington, Minnesota and New Mexico, for example — have largely not complied. Barring another extension of the deadline, their driver’s licenses will soon be inadmissible as proof of identity at airport security.

Consider the stakes.

When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed last year, killing all 239 aboard, the world shuddered to learn that two of the passengers had carried fake passports. The two, it turned out, were not terrorists but ordinary Iranians trying to move to Germany.

Everyone, Americans included, noted that known terrorists bent on destruction could probably have secured similar phony ID. But there’s a tendency, especially among Americans, to rapidly forget what obsessed them the year before.

With the deadline for Real ID drawing near, hostility has again flared toward letting the federal government do what it must to ensure that passengers flashing driver’s licenses at airport security are who they say they are.

To me, the main difference between a secure driver’s license and an insecure one is that the insecure one can be used for committing crimes, among them identity theft and fraud. But to many foes of Real ID, secure ones’ threat to privacy is a more serious matter.

The foes argue that requiring enhanced licenses is tantamount to creating a national identity card. That presupposes that a national identity card would be a terrible thing. Actually, the gentlest of European democracies have national identity cards, and they haven’t turned into police states.

Besides, Americans already have a national ID number, courtesy of Social Security. When the Social Security program was established in 1935, its enemies fulminated against the issuance of numbers, with some of the arguments now being hurled at Real ID.

As historian Douglas Brinkley writes, “Critics likened the process to the social engineering used in fascist nations, notably Nazi Germany, predicting that American workers would be forced to wear metal tags on chains around their necks and charging that ‘surveillance is a part of the plans of the (Franklin D.) Roosevelt administration.'”

It was inevitable that an ID requiring proof of immigration status would rankle defenders of undocumented workers. One wishes for a solution to the immigration problem that is humane to both those settled here illegally and American workers competing with them for jobs. (Such a plan would legalize the status of most of the undocumented while cutting off future illegal entry.)

That said, it is politically unwise to let concerns about inconveniencing people here illegally trump (excuse the expression) concern over national security.

An air disaster set off by passengers getting on board with fake ID would move many fence-sitters to the side of Real ID. But let’s not wait for it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Photo: An American Airlines airplane prepares to land at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Airline Fares Fall, Complaints Rise

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Consumer surveys have shown that the most important factor in buying an airline ticket is price.

So a 5 percent drop in domestic airfares during the first 10 months of 2015 compared with the same period last year should result in lots of happy fliers, right?

Not so. Instead, complaints against airlines are on the rise.

The drop in domestic airfares was reported last week by travel giant Expedia with help from Airlines Reporting Corp., an Arlington, Va., company that handles ticketing transactions between the nation’s airlines and travel agents.

The study of more than 10 billion ticket transactions recorded an 8 percent drop in airfares worldwide. (The Expedia study did not list the dollar price for the average domestic airfare.)

A number of factors have contributed to the average 5 percent drop in fares in North America, including a steep decline in fuel prices.

But rather than singing the praises of airlines over lower fares, passengers are complaining at a 36 percent rate higher than last year, according to consumer data from the federal Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

In raw numbers, the U.S. Department of Transportation received 10,444 complaints against U.S.-based airlines in the first 10 months of 2015, compared with 7,467 in the same period last year. When calculated against the total number of air travelers, the rate was 1.97 complaints for every 100,000 fliers in the first 10 months of 2015 compared with 1.44 in the same period last year.

Paul Hudson, president of flyersrights.org, a nonprofit passenger rights group, said he isn’t surprised at the rise in complaints because airlines continue to charge high fees to check bags and change reservations while packing more passengers into smaller seats.

“The service level has dropped,” he said.

Airline industry representatives played down the complaint rate and instead focused on the decline in airfares.

“The customer complaint rate remains remarkably low,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s biggest airlines. “Air travel remains one of the best consumer bargains out there.”

UNITED AIRLINES GOING TO THE DOGS

For those airline fliers who get so frazzled by holiday travel that they start to bark at seatmates, United Airlines is offering an all-natural way to relieve stress: dogs.

Through a program called United Paws, the Chicago-based carrier is deploying more than 200 dogs to the airline’s seven airport hubs Monday through Wednesday. The specially trained “comfort dogs” will be led around the terminals by handlers so that stressed fliers can pet, scratch and nuzzle the pooches.

In past years, the program has operated at only one or two airports during the holidays. But United plans to expand the effort this year to Los Angeles, Cleveland, Denver, Washington, Houston, Chicago and Newark, N.J.

The 13 dogs assigned to Los Angeles International Airport are coming from the nonprofit group Actors & Others for Animals.

Representatives of United Paws say research shows that five minutes spent with a dog can decrease stress hormones and lower blood pressure.
Throughout the rest of the year, LAX funds a similar program dubbed Pets Unstressing Passengers. Under the PUP program, dogs and their handlers roam the airport every day to spread the dogs’ healing powers.

DELTA BUSINESS-CLASS FLIERS TO GET PJS

How can you tell who the business-class travelers are on Delta’s long-haul flights?

They’re the ones wearing pajamas.

Delta Air Lines has announced that starting in March it will give passengers on its elite business-class section gray cotton sleepwear on flights from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, and from L.A. to Shanghai.

The PJs make sense because nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Sydney or L.A. to Shanghai can last up to 15 hours. In the business-class section, known as Delta One, passengers can sleep in lie-flat seats with a white comforter and hypoallergenic, down-alternative pillow.

Changing into the pajamas is not a problem because Delta One passengers get access to extra large onboard bathrooms. The price for such comfort: about $11,000 to $17,000 each way to either Sydney or Shanghai.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo Via Travis Wise at Flickr

Travel Dilemmas: If Airfare Drops After You Buy A Ticket, Are You Entitled To A Refund?

By Catharine Hamm, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Question: On Oct. 2, I bought a one-way ticket on Frontier Airlines and the fare with taxes was $59. Eight days later, I checked the website and the fare was $19. I asked Frontier for a charge back to my credit card; the agent said the airline doesn’t do that. I checked its contract of carriage, and there is nothing that prohibits a refund. Am I entitled to a refund?

—Rick Haynes, Palm Springs, Calif.

Answer: If you’re alive, probably not.

As consumers, we think that buying an airline ticket in advance is our hedge against airfare increases, and it very often is.

Except when it’s not.

“In the world of airfares, it’s critical to bear in mind the additional complexity of dynamic pricing,” said Andrew Jin, product manager for Flyr (www.getflyr.com), an airfare booking engine that tries to help buyers get the best deal.

That pricing, also known as yield management, “is there to accomplish one key goal: to ensure that each seat on the plane is sold to the highest bidder,” Jin said in an email.

“If the supply of seats sells out faster than expected, then prices are raised higher. After it goes up, the high price may deter customers, so the price is then lowered.”

Haynes apparently was one of those highest bidders.

He also was one of the majority of fliers who buys nonrefundable tickets. And on this point, Frontier is crystal clear: All Economy (its capitalization) fares are nonrefundable.

Frontier has a second, more lenient, fare category called Classic Plus (costs more), but there’s very little wiggle room with Economy except in the case of your death, in which case you can get your money back.

Refundability is key because generally you must rebook your ticket to get a lower fare (not just on Frontier but on almost every airline) and pay a change fee to do that. (Southwest does not charge change fees, by the way.)

For a domestic ticket, the change fee is $200, internationally it’s $300, but some change fees are as much as $850, said Rick Seaney, founder of FareCompare.

That often means that any difference you might realize is wiped out on a nonrefundable ticket.

Pretty nifty trick if you’re an airline.

Not so much if you’re a consumer.

But when you stop to think about it, should you be entitled to a refund if a price drops? If, for instance, you buy a cellphone just as it comes on the market and then, seven months later, when demand has cooled, the price drops, should you get a refund of the difference?

That may be a hypothetical with a cellphone, but that roll of the dice is a reality with airline tickets, whose prices do vary frequently.

You could spend your days watching and waiting to nab that price drop; you could use a service such as Yapta, which will keep an eye on airfare and hotel room prices and notify you if you’re eligible for a refund if you booked directly with the airline. (It does not handle Frontier tickets.)

“We are tracking (fares) 24/7,” said Jeff Pecor, a Yapta spokesman. “I think that’s incredibly valuable as (airline) revenue management becomes more and more sophisticated for consumers also to have a higher level of sophisticated (tools).”

Yapta does not charge for this service.

For a fee, you also can lock in fares on some booking engines (Flyr, among them) and with some airlines. And under Department of Transportation rules, you can book an airfare and cancel within 24 hours for a refund.

Booking an airfare isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes courage to put down your money, as Seaney points out, for something that’s immediately charged to your credit card and that you don’t use for several weeks — or, in some cases, ever.

“To travel is to live,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote in his autobiography “The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography.” To which I might add, “Yeah, to live right on the edge.”

(Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com. We regret we cannot answer every inquiry.)

©2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Michael Kappel via Flickr)

Five Ways To Avoid Those Sky-High Airfare Change Fees

By Catharine Hamm, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind,” Victor Frankenstein reflects in the Mary Shelley horror classic, “as a great and sudden change.”

These days, few things are as painful to the human pocketbook as a great and sudden change in your airline travel plans. A change in those plans can be so expensive it can feel like a bolt in the neck.

We travelers paid almost $3 billion in change fees last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about the cost of seven A380s.

Nowadays, the fees for changes in a domestic ticket can be as much as $200 and often more than double that for an international flight, wiping out a big part of the value of your ticket.

If your plans change, you can avoid the dreaded fee, but it takes some doing (and sometimes some money). Let us count the ways you might escape them:

1. Buy a fully refundable ticket
Let’s say you are flying round trip from Los Angeles International Airport to Washington, D.C., on American in mid-October. A search on Monday showed a fare of $351 for a nonrefundable ticket, which is about 85 percent of all tickets sold. A fully refundable ticket costs $1,327. Whether it’s worth it depends on your needs and the peculiarities of your schedule.

2. Buy on an airline that doesn’t charge change fees
That usually means Southwest. If you have to rebook, you’ll have to pay the difference in fares. But there’s no charge for the change.

You won’t get your money back if you have to cancel the whole trip, but you will have a credit that you can use for a future flight.

George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, also notes that Alaska Airlines will allow you to change without charge if your flight is 60 or more days away.

3. Buy a fare that offsets the cost of the fee
On American Airlines, you can buy a Choice Plus ticket. For the same October dates as above, I found a Choice Plus ticket for $511. For that, the change fee is waived, and you also get bonus miles plus a same-day flight change if you need it.

4. Change within 24 hours of booking
Some airlines allow you to hold a reservation for 24 hours without booking; some allow you to change as long as the flight is more than seven days away. They don’t have to do both.

But under the Department of Transportation rule, there should be no penalty if you decide to change (or cancel). You’ll have to read the website carefully to find out which option is offered.

5. Book with an airline that allows same-day changes
I just recently stumbled upon this when I wanted to come home early from a trip to Boston. American allowed me to switch my flight for $75. Among others that allow this: United ($75, unless you’re an elite flier) and Delta ($50, unless you’re an elite flier).

In fact, if you’re an elite flier, you’re going to escape many of the fees that plague the rest of us leisure travelers, who tend to buy on price. This means reading the terms and conditions in the airline small type, but it will save you big bucks.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Tracking Glitch Cancels More Than 200 Flights On U.S. East Coast

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — More than 200 flights were canceled at airports along the U.S. East Coast on Saturday due to a problem with a flight-tracking system in the Washington, D.C. area, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

There were 220 flights canceled during the busy summer travel season on the East Coast as of 2 p.m. ET, with airports in Baltimore and Washington being among the hardest hit, according to flightaware.com, which monitors global air traffic.

By comparison, large and severe weather systems in the United States can cause more than 1,000 cancellations in a day.

Thousands of passengers were also affected as several hundred flights were delayed up and down the Atlantic Coast, including the area around the nation’s capital and the financial center of New York. Some of the worst waits were seen at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which saw departure delays of more than three hours, it said.

The FAA said in a statement it was working to diagnose an automation problem at an air traffic center in Leesburg, Virginia. It planned to provide updates when more information was available.

“We are directing high altitude traffic around the affected airspace, the FAA said in the statement. It added the problem had nothing to do with an accident or computer hacking.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Will Dunham, Jon Herskovitz and Letitia Stein; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alan Crosby)

Photo: An Airbus A330-301 plane at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport via Wikimedia Commons