On Tuesday, Congress again demonstrated its inability to move an FAA bill that includes comprehensive, real reform of our nation’s air traffic control system. While those on Capitol Hill continue to disagree, we at the Department are putting consumers first, and keeping modernization of our aviation system in the fast lane.
Our nation’s aviation network should be as safe, reliable, and efficient as possible, and while there are no quick-fixes, we are taking action. We’re working to both improve the system, and protect consumers when there are disruptions.
We are pursuing new technologies—like NextGen—that will allow our skies to accommodate two to three times the current number of planes by updating our air traffic control system from a ground and voice-based one to a satellite-based, cockpit-to-cockpit one.
We have proposed enhancing the on-time performance data carriers report to the Department so that we, the industry and the public have access to more complete information on flights that are cancelled, delayed or diverted.
Recently I announced new measures designed to help reduce delays during the busy summer travel season, including opening a second westbound route for aircraft…sort of like a new interstate highway in the sky.
Additionally, to give aircraft more flexibility, we are allowing the use of alternative routes to avoid severe weather. One of these is an “escape route” into Canadian airspace that will allow planes departing from the New York area to avoid going through summer thunderstorms and high winds.
While we’re talking about New York, I should mention we have proposed a new way to handle congestion at LaGuardia Airport—one of the top-three most delayed airports in the country. We proposed market-based solutions that would use competition and choice to reduce fares and delays. We propose using an auction process to allocate a limited number of flight slots, which would force airlines to improve efficiency. The proceeds from the auction would be invested in new congestion reduction and capacity improvement initiatives in the New York region.
The Department is also working on a number of consumer protection initiatives for passengers. We’re doubling the limits on the compensation required to be paid to “bumped” passengers and extending those requirements to smaller aircraft. We’ve proposed requiring airlines to have legally binding contingency plans for extended tarmac delays, to respond to consumer complaints within 30 days, and to publish complaint data online.
There’s no reason our aviation system cannot be prepared for the needs of the 21st century, and this Department is doing all it can to ensure our skies are as safe and efficient as possible.