WASHINGTON — The government may force airlines to cut flights into the nation's most congested airports if carriers don't take voluntary steps to reduce the record flight delays that struck the industry this year, the nation's top federal aviation official said yesterday.
In one of her final actions as head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Marion Blakey told airlines that their schedules "are at times out of line with reality."
In a speech before the Aero Club of Washington, she said she predicts passengers will continue to be fed up with delays, and that's got to be taken more seriously by the airlines. Her five-year term as FAA administrator ends tomorrow.
"If the airlines don't address this voluntarily, don't be surprised when the government steps in," she said. Airlines responded that the FAA needed to make improvements in its air-traffic system before interfering with schedules.
"I'm not saying we don't need to deal with scheduling," said Jim May, president of the Air Transport Association. "But it's only one of many different elements in a suite of solutions to the problem."
Blakey did not mention specific airports in her speech, but New York City's three airports have become the most heavily delayed in the nation as flights have grown significantly.
At John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty, and LaGuardia, only 59% of flights arrived on time through July, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
It's not the first time Blakey has pushed airlines to cut flights in order to reduce delays. In 2004, under pressure from Blakey, United and American airlines agreed to trim their schedules at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after delays skyrocketed.
Blakey also chided corporate aviation for contributing to delays and not paying their fair share of fees to support the aviation system. National Business Aviation Association spokesman Dan Hubbard said corporate aviation is willing to pay more.
SOURCE: USA Today