Americans considering “market-based approach” to reducing air congestion

The Bush administration in the U.S. is considering the idea that airlines be charged a premium for scheduling flights at busy travel hours. Airports at crowded hubs would collect the fees as part of an effort to ease air-traffic congestion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking public comments on this and various other market-based ways to spread out the timing of flights.

Airlines have scheduled an increasing number of flights at the busiest times because business travellers prefer it.

  • Thus, while the industry has reduced flight delays so that 77 percent were on time in the first six months of 2001 compared to 74 percent during the same period of 2000, it is impossible for all flights to land on time due to the airlines' schedules, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

  • The airline industry blames a shortage of runways and an out-of-date air-traffic-control system for stack-ups and flight delays.

  • While airport executives will likely applaud the fee proposal and argue that the extra revenues could be used to upgrade their facilities, they recognise that many airports don't have the land to build new runways.

    Currently, airport fees are set by local authorities on the basis of aircraft weight. Some experts say airports already have the legal authority to charge carriers extra for flights at peak travel hours.

    Source: Stephen Power, White House Considers Market Approach to Help Ease Air-Traffic Congestion, Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2001.

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    FMF\28 August 2001
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