Saturday, June 21, 2008

Airlines Take Aim at Transportation Department

I’m glad to see the Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, taking aim at elements of the sorry legacy of the U.S. Transportation Department and the F.A.A. for its dereliction of duty in managing the nation’s air-traffic control system.

This week, the ATA president, James C. May, testified before the House Committee on Transportation on the need to increase capacity and reduce congestion in New York-area airspace. ATA denounced the Department of Transportation (DOT) congestion pricing and slot auction proposals that would ration capacity. The DOT, said the airline trade group, needs to “to stop talking ideology and experiments, and start leaving a legacy that will help, not hurt, this country.”

“Instead of moving forward with capacity enhancements and airspace redesign using every available resource with all deliberate speed, the DOT is pushing congestion pricing and slot auctions – completely unproven textbook experiments that no one in the aviation world has used successfully,” May said. “DOT seems intent on leaving a legacy of failed, but extremely costly, experiments that do nothing to reduce congestion and flight delays in New York or anywhere else.”

Ouch. And it’s about time the airlines started hammering the DOT for its manifest failures in air traffic control modernization – marked by breathtaking cost overruns and delays, by betting the farm on questionable technology that still won’t be in place for years, and by consistently coming up with lame publicity stunts like those risible borrowed-from-the-military sky lanes at Thanksgiving.

The ATA is supported by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in opposing the DOT proposals on congestion pricing and slot auctions.

The ATA, obviously, represents the interests of the commercial airline industry. Its position here is strictly in regard to slot auctions and air-capacity reductions, incidentally. Others, including low-cost airlines and foreign airlines that might want to buy those auctioned slots, will disagree.

May’s testimony (transcript here) is worth a read for anyone who wants to keep up with the dynamics of the air-space allocation issues, and where the major airlines stand.


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