Today I welcomed bloggers to the Department as part of our first ever Bloggers’ Row. It was great fun, and I hope our guests enjoyed it as much as I did. And while we were there to get to know one another and discuss a broad range of transportation issues, I took the opportunity to make a few major aviation announcements. To get you up to speed, here’s a little of what I told the bloggers in the room (you can get all the details here).
We responded to the recent series of groundings that left passengers stranded with recommendations designed to prevent future similar disruptions. After reading the reports of American Airlines and the FAA assessing the causes behind the groundings in March and April, it is very clear that communications can and should be improved between the FAA and the aviation industry. There must and will be more open, more direct and more frequent exchanges of information.
Together we will make sure that there is mutual understanding as to what constitutes compliance with an aviation Directive (AD), as well as the process, timing and criteria for requesting and approving an Alternate Means of Compliance (AMOC). When situations of this magnitude evolve it is critical that all parties have the right information so the right decisions can be made at the right times and by the right people.
So I am asking both the FAA and the airlines to review communications protocols to make sure that decisions are well considered and elevated when necessary. And I am happy to say that these conversations between the FAA and industry have already begun to take place.
Everyone involved in the business of aviation recognizes that the FAA is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes a “safety of flight” issue. For the system to work and for safety to never be compromised, we need a single entity responsible for making the final call on when an aircraft is safe to fly and when it isn’t. Our aviation laws appropriately require that that entity be the Federal Aviation Administration.
In addition to the actions taken because of the reports, I announced two new measurers specifically designed to give consumers more complete information about airline tarmac delays and new checked baggage fees.
We are issuing a final rule to require airlines to provide on-time and delay data about flights that may depart from multiple gates, flights that are cancelled after having left the gate, and flights that are diverted to another airport.
I also announced guidelines airlines must follow in disclosing baggage fees to customers. As many airlines begin to implement new fees for checking more than one bag, many travelers have been surprised to learn of these new fees after they have already made their travel decision. I also issued new guidelines to require carriers and travel agents to disclose baggage fees in their internet and print ads before anyone purchases a ticket. Passengers should know what to expect, and what to pay, before they buy a ticket or pack their bags.
If you can’t tell by now, it was a busy day at the Department…but there’s more! We don’t want flyers to suffer the kind of delays they experienced all too frequently last summer. So we are submitting our final capping order for Newark Liberty Airport to temporarily cap flights at an average of 83 per hour during peak periods.
To be clear, these caps do not require service cuts at Newark. Rather, airlines will be able to shift their flights to times of the day when Newark has unused capacity. Overall, the caps at Newark allow 30 more operations per day than were offered last summer—just more reasonably spaced.
We’re capping Newark immediately and proposing to put in place a longer term, more efficient system for allocating slots under those caps. As anyone familiar with the airline business can tell you, capping airports without providing ways to attract new competition, new service and new consumer choices is a formula for failure. If you don’t believe me, just consider LaGuardia Airport, which has been capped for almost forty years yet still holds the dubious dual distinction as one of the most delayed and most expensive airports in the country.
So, I am announcing today a proposed new rulemaking to make available a limited number of take off and landing opportunities, known as slots, for auction at JFK and Newark Airports. Details of the rule can be found here.
Our plan strikes a sound balance between protecting investments made by incumbent carriers, ensuring that all airlines have the ability to fly to Newark and JFK, and improving service, choice and fares for travelers. And travelers will further receive congestion relief benefits of flight caps without the stale service, limited choices and higher fares that government restrictions bring.
Combined with a similar plan we announced last month to introduce the same kind of competitive elements at LaGuardia Airport, this new proposal will do much to make flying to New York more attractive.
Thanks a lot for reading. I know that was a lot of information and I hope you click through to get a more detailed account of the actions we’ve taken. I’d also like to thank all the bloggers who joined me today…we’ll have you back!