President Bush Announces Administrative Steps To Reduce Delays, Urges Congress To Act On Common Sense Reforms
Today, President Bush directed Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to take action to address air traffic congestion and flight delays. President Bush has asked Secretary Peters to meet with airline industry and aviation officials in the most over-stressed part of our system – the New York metro airspace – to develop a plan to alleviate congestion and reduce delays.A third of the Nation's air traffic passes through this airspace, and two-thirds of the Nation's air traffic can be affected when the New York area experiences delays. This means delays there affect travelers across the Nation. Secretary Peters will report back to the President before the end of the year with proposed solutions that could be in effect by next summer.
This year, travelers in our Nation faced some of the worst flying conditions in U.S. history – with record delays, cancellations, and lost luggage. The airline industry's on-time performance in the first seven months of 2007 was the worst on record, and nationally, almost 30 percent of all flights are now cancelled or substantially delayed. These problems degrade Americans' lives in real ways, and airline passengers should not have to wait any longer for relief.
The President has laid out two steps that will help alleviate delays and related consumer problems:
Reducing air traffic congestion that clogs our busiest airports and airspace. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has started a process to help the busiest airports adopt new policies to efficiently address chronic airline over-scheduling, which leads to long lines and delays on the tarmac. In addition, Congress should act to facilitate major technology upgrades and allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to apply fundamental economic and business principles to the management of our air traffic control system, a WWII-era system badly in need of modernization.
Improving air passenger complaint and response systems. The best way to protect consumers is to solve the underlying congestion and delay problems. As these problems are addressed, DOT and the FAA are working on a number of initiatives to provide consumers with more information and protection.
In February, the Administration sent Congress a practical, comprehensive plan to modernize our air traffic control system, but Congress has failed to act on this proposal or address growing aviation delays in any meaningful way. The President urges Congress to act with the Administration to make bold aviation reforms this fall. The Administration's proposal:
Overhauls the FAA's financing structure to provide price incentives for system users to reduce delays and facilitate technological modernization.
Contains provisions to specifically target the most congested regions with market-based mechanisms such as congestion pricing and auctions to reduce airport delays and crowded airspace.
To ensure the summer of 2008 is not worse than 2007, DOT and the FAA are pushing forward immediately in the following areas:
New York Aviation Rulemaking Committee (NYARC): The NYARC will explore market-based mechanisms and other options for addressing airspace congestion and flight delays in the New York area and provide advice, information, and recommendations to DOT and the FAA. It will serve as a forum for DOT, the FAA, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; representatives of air carriers operating to and from LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark International Airport, and Teterboro Airport; consumer groups; and other interested parties. The group's first meeting is today, and it will meet regularly until its work is completed in December.
Increased Consumer Protection: DOT and the FAA are working on initiatives to provide consumers more information and protection. Some of these initiatives can be implemented administratively and in the short term, including improving access to DOT's complaint system and stronger oversight of chronically delayed flights. In addition, DOT has already initiated a rulemaking to increase compensation for those passengers involuntarily bumped from a flight because it was oversold. DOT is also assessing the effectiveness of contingency plans for tarmac delays and point of purchase information related to chronically delayed flights.
Scheduling Reduction Meeting: The FAA will convene a scheduling reduction meeting for JFK to address the problem of severe congestion and delays. Air carriers will be invited to meet with the FAA to discuss possible flight schedule reductions.
New York Airspace Redesign: The New York airspace redesign will help the FAA more efficiently handle the rapidly growing number of flights in the Northeast, cutting delays by as much as 20 percent. This redesign will develop new routes and procedures to take advantage of improved aircraft performance and air traffic technologies that have developed since the current airspace environment was designed in the 1960s. The FAA started implementing the redesign plan this month, but it is expected to take five years to complete.