- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The airline industry’s dismal on-time performance in 2007 continued in August with nearly 30 percent of flights delayed.

The most recent government data, which also showed a surge in fliers’ complaints, were released less than a week after President Bush promised to help fix the problem.

Forcing carriers to shrink their flight schedules or to pay more to fly during peak travel periods are some of the steps the government is considering.

The nation’s 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 71.7 percent in August, down from 75.8 percent a year ago, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said yesterday. The on-time rate was 69.8 percent in July and 68.1 percent in June.

Through August, more than 25 percent of flights have arrived late — the industry’s worst on-time performance since comparable data began being collected in 1995.

The airline industry and the Federal Aviation Administration blame the delays on outdated air traffic control technology, bad weather and increasing passenger traffic. Analysts say commercial airlines’ use of smaller planes is partly to blame for increased congestion in the skies and on runways, as is an increase in general aviation aircraft used by corporate travelers.

Whatever the cause of the delays, travelers have noticed.

Customer complaints nearly doubled to 1,634 in August compared with 864 in the same month last year. Poor weather conditions were blamed for more than 38 percent of delays in August, a slight increase from a year ago.

“Endless hours sitting in an airplane on a runway with no communication between a pilot and the airport is just not right,” Mr. Bush said last week after meeting with Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and the acting head of the FAA, Bobby Sturgell.

Mrs. Peters asked airlines to formulate a plan to improve scheduling at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest. Without an industry solution, the department is prepared to issue a scheduling reduction order, she said.

The government also could force a so-called congestion-pricing model upon the industry, Mrs. Peters said, but airline executives last week told Congress that raising flying costs during peak periods would simply result in higher fares.

The airlines and the FAA are pressing for a new, satellite-based air traffic control system that will cost about $15 billion and take nearly 20 years to complete. Airline traffic is projected to double by 2025.

The FAA in late August awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion the system, known as NextGen. The agency on Tuesday said it wants all planes to be equipped to use the new navigation technology by 2020.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide