AMERICAS: US flight delays worsen

Total airline flights in the US for the first eight months of 2007 were up five per cent through August, to 4.9 million, but only 72 per cent of them arrived on time, down from 76 percent a year ago. An estimated 100 million new travelers are expected to add to the congestion over the […]


Total airline flights in the US for the first eight months of 2007 were up five per cent through August, to 4.9 million, but only 72 per cent of them arrived on time, down from 76 percent a year ago. An estimated 100 million new travelers are expected to add to the congestion over the next two years.

The Transportation Department estimates that flight delays cost U.S. airline passengers US$9.4 billion per year. The cost to airlines: US$7.7 billion, according to the Air Transport Association.

An industry task force convened by the Bush administration met recently to devise measures to ease congestion over the New York area’s busy air space by summer 2008. For the first eight months of 2007, the New York area’s three major airports ranked last among major U.S. airports for on-time performance, according to federal data.

About one-third of the country’s air traffic passes through the skies over New York City every day, according to the Transportation Department. Delays there ripple through aviation systems nationwide, accounting for about three quarters of all chronic airline delays, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

So far, the group is studying a number of ways of easing delays at New York’s airports including auctioning landing slots at the airports, charging carriers more to operate flights during peak hours and having the Federal Aviation Administration negotiate a reduction in airline schedules during peak periods, something the carriers cannot do without antitrust immunity. But any measures impacting airline operations are likely to prove controversial. The Air Transport Association, a trade group representing the largest airlines, opposes so-called“congestion pricing,” for example.