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Old October 25th, 2007, 06:19 AM   #21
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Well... Towns in Fairfield County rejected the new flight route proposal by FAA and possibly going to court. Major concerns are the possible noise and accidents. It's more than just the airports themselves but also nearby neighbourhoods along the flight paths. More flight paths may have relieved the problem for a little bit already.

The ultimate solution is not just upgrading the system, but less flights with bigger planes. The small jets take up as much time and air spaces as large aircrafts causing traffic jam just like on the highway with too much Single Occupancy Vehicle.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 06:23 AM   #22
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North America is where I have encountered most delays, but domestic carriers in the Philippines are pretty aweful also.

No evidence, but I suspect in North America carriers purposely try to fill all of the seats on their planes, so they will outright lie about weather simply to consolidate flights. It's happened too many times to me on nice sunny days. If true this is pretty low since many people buys tickets not simply for seat space but for a desired time window.

Skys are also heavily congested in North America but inability to compensate is lack of or unwillingness of planning since air traffic has always been growing.

As far as 9-11 excuse, that excuse was valid after the attacks, but geesh, it's been 6 years.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 10:25 AM   #23
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US Air Carriers' On-Time Arrival Rate 81.7% In Sep - DOT
5 November 2007

WASHINGTON (AP)--Travelers' were less likely to be stuck on a delayed flight in September, but the airline industry's on-time performance so far in 2007 remained the worst in 13 years, according to government data released Monday.

The nation's 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 81.7% in September, up from 76.2% in the same month a year ago and up from 71.7% in August, the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said.

Better weather was partly to credit for the improved results. More than 34% of late flights in September were delayed by weather, an improvement from a year ago when more than 40% of those flights experienced weather-related delays.

Despite the improved September results, more than 24% of flights arrived late in the first nine months of the year. The industry's on-time performance this year remained the worst since comparable data began being collected in 1995.

The statistics come amid increased concern about flight delays. Last month, federal aviation regulators held a two-day summit aimed at fixing "epidemic" delays at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, which had the second-worst on-time arrival record of any major U.S. airport through September, followed by Newark's Liberty International Airport.

The latest government proposal to alleviate delays is to reduce JFK's hourly flight limit by 20%.

But the airline industry's trade group, the Air Transport Association, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs JFK, both prefer flight-path changes and improvements aimed at increasing the airport's capacity.

Not all airlines suffered through poor performance in September. Aloha Airlines had the highest on-time arrival rate at 95.4%, followed by Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s (HA) Hawaiian Airlines at 93.7% and Frontier Airlines (FRNT) at 88.5%, according to government data.

But more than 63% of flights on Atlantic Southeast Airlines were delayed, and one of its flights, from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, S.C. was late 90% of the time. The Delta Connection carrier, which is owned by SkyWest Inc. (SKYW), had the lowest on-time arrival rate, followed by Alaska Airlines at 73.3% and Northwest Airlines (NWA) at 77.8%.

Customer complaints rose in September to 895 compared with 627 in the same month last year, according to the government data. But the rates of mishandled baggage fell to about 5.5 reports per 1,000 passengers from 8.3 reports a year ago.

Despite the improved statistics for September, the union representing air traffic controllers says that delays during the coming holiday season are likely to worsen.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, whose members have been working under a contract imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration for more than a year, said Monday there will be 7.5% fewer fully trained air traffic controllers working over the winter holidays than last year.

The union says the extended labor dispute and poor working conditions are driving veteran controllers out of the business.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency doesn't expect that any flight delays in the coming months will be related to staffing levels among controllers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, blamed the FAA's former administrator, Marion Blakey, for engaging in a needlessly confrontational battle with the controllers.

"She didn't fight for her agency so they're short of technology and air traffic controllers," Schumer said in an interview. Blakey's five-year term ended in September.

Schumer said he hasn't yet made up his mind about acting FAA administrator Robert A. Sturgell who has been nominated by President George W. Bush to take the job permanently.

The airlines and the FAA are pressing for a new, satellite-based air traffic control system that will cost about $15 billion and take nearly 20 years to complete. Airline traffic is projected to double by 2025. The FAA in late August awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion the system.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 05:58 PM   #24
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Does anyone think there is a way to eliminate traffic related delays? More runways, better traffic patterns or something else? It always sucks to spend more time at the airport than actually being in the air. Also I don't think there's a way to eliminate weather related delays.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 06:00 PM   #25
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Airlines are not going to reduce frequencies and group passengers into bigger jets. The alternative is to make better use of regional airports, but unlikely an airline would want to split its hub into two airports or more. This is a tough one.
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Old November 8th, 2007, 01:31 AM   #26
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Ah guys, you're forgetting to factor in the ever rising price of gas and that prices have nearly doubled in the last 3~5 years meaning flights that made profit at half full capacity then may not break even at 85% capacity now.
No company within their right minds are going to fly knowing it will bleed red from the start.
The only remedy for the situation is reduce frequency but probably the airliners have a quota with the DoT on how many flights they will fly to sustain a route so they come out with a lame excuse to delay and consolidate passengers.
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Old November 8th, 2007, 05:34 AM   #27
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Airlines hedge their fuel costs so the rising costs of fuel will not have as big of a direct immediate impact.

U.S. airline fuel hedging positions

NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines have hedged their expected jet fuel purchases to protect themselves from rising fuel costs.

Hedges typically involve buying financial contracts in a related product such as crude oil <CLc1> or heating oil <HOV7>.

The financial gains from those contracts, if the price rises, can help offset higher costs for jet fuel, which vies with labor as an airline's largest cost.

Other hedging strategies include so-called "collars," which are combinations of put and call options. They generally cost less to put in place and limit the risk if prices rise, but also limit the gain if prices fall. Within the band of put and call options, the airline is essentially paying the market price.

Southwest Airlines for years has had the best hedging position in the industry, helping the low-cost carrier undercut competitors' fares and still post profits.

Below is a table outlining the hedging positions at major airlines :

Code:
                            PERCENT
AIRLINE               PERIOD   HEDGED   DESCRIPTION
American Airlines     H2 07      31     capped at about $62/barrel crude oil
 United Airlines       Q3 07      27     heating oil collars: upside protection
                                     starting at $1.96/gallon and capped at
                                     $2.14/gallon; payment obligations
                                     start if heating oil drops below
                                     $1.84/gallon
                   Q4 07      17     heating oil collars: upside protection
                                     starting at $2.04/gallon and capped at
                                     $2.22/gallon; payment obligations
                                     start if heating oil drops below
                                     $1.86/gallon
 Delta Air Lines       Q3 07      22     heating oil collars: rates undisclosed
 Continental Airlines  Q3 07      35     heating oil collars: avg put price
                                     $1.86/gallon, avg call price
                                     $2.02/gallon
                   Q4 07      27     heating oil collars: avg put price
                                     $2.03/gallon, avg call price
                                     $2.20/gallon
 Northwest Airlines    H2 07      25     crude oil collars: put options
                                     $53-55.95/barrel; call options
                                     $72/barrel
                              10     crude oil swaps: $62-$64.98/barrel
                   Sep-Dec    15     crude oil collars: put options
                                     $60/barrel; call options $78.70/barrel
 Southwest Airlines    Q3 07      90      at avg crude oil price of $51/barrel
                   Q4 07      90      at avg crude oil price of $51/barrel
                   FY 08      65      at avg crude oil price of $49/barrel
 US Airways Group      Q3 07      54      heating oil collars: weighted avg
                                      range $1.81 to $2.01/gallon
                   Q4 07      40      heating oil collars: weighted avg
                                      range $1.78 to $1.98/gallon
   
SOURCE: Airline filings. (Reporting by Chris Reiter)
***

For major trunk routes, frequencies are not likely to change to attract business travellers, who pay so much more than economy passengers and are a crucial profitability driver.
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Old November 10th, 2007, 06:08 PM   #28
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FAA says flight caps at O'Hare won't be lifted next year
10 November 2007

CHICAGO (AP) - The Federal Aviation Administration says a cap on flights into O'Hare International Airport won't be lifted next year when a new runway is scheduled to open.

The Chicago Tribune reports Saturday that the agency's policy reversal may hamper the city's ability to pay for its planned $15 billion airport expansion.

FAA official Henry Krakowski told the Tribune on Friday the decision to keep the cap is aimed at improving delays and cancellations.

Rosemarie Andolino, director of the O'Hare project, says city officials want to speak with Krakowski about the change.

The FAA originally pledged that the cap, limiting arrivals to 88 per hour, would be removed when the first new runway opened as part of the airfield expansion.
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Old November 14th, 2007, 03:19 PM   #29
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On-time flights just a fancy idea, finds survey
14 November 2007
The Economic Times

NEW DELHI: Flighty delays continue to dog passengers at almost all metro airports despite the recent steps taken to expand capacity and modernise traffic management. About 50% domestic and international flights from Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai run behind schedule, a survey by the civil aviation ministry has found.

"A recent analysis on delay in flights over a week for three airports - Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata showed delays to the extent of 40% to 50%," an official in the ministry of civil aviation said.

With foggy winter round the corner, the situation may aggravate. According to the winter schedule announced last month, the number of flights at Delhi and Mumbai airport have been increased by about 7%. Last year, the Delhi airport operator, Delhi International Airport (DIAL), had to put up tent and shamianas outside the domestic terminal to accommodate passengers. As many flights could not take off due to low visibility, hundreds of passengers remained stranded at the airport.

To keep the situation in control, the government has this time warned airlines to train their pilots on CAT III instrument landing system (ILS). CAT III allows planes take off and land at a visibility as less as 50 metres. The government has said that airlines not sticking to their schedule may lose their slot for the entire season. The Delhi airport has the advanced CAT IIIB landing system that can handle 28 aircraft per hour during the peak season.

Earlier, the civil aviation minister Praful Patel had also said that delay in departure of the flights lead to cascading effect and caused delay to other flights. He had indicated that airlines may be penalised for not taking off on time.

The slot selection committee headed by the joint secretary in the ministry of civil aviation, K N Shrivastava, while allocating slots for the winter season said that airlines should adhere to approved flight schedule and maintain 'on-time' performance. Defaulters stand to lose their slots in the next season.
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Old November 14th, 2007, 08:32 PM   #30
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Budget Airline Panned Over Delays

Exclusive Official Flights Report Brands Flyglobespan Worst Budget Airline For Delays

BUDGET airline flyglobespan have been branded the worst in Scotland for delays.

Civil Aviation Authority statistics put them bottom of the league for budget airlines operating daily out of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

They lagged behind Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2, Flybe, Bmi baby and Monarch.

Over the summer thousands of angry passengers faced delays of up to 18 hours with flyglobespan - Scotland's airline of the Year in 2005.

The fast-growing firm have 21 aircraft on more than 70 routes. CAA figures for July show:

One in six flights from Glasgow to Palma, Majorca, was delayed by three to six hours.

Return journeys were worse with one in five flights delayed by three to six hours.

One in four flights from Glasgow to Canada was more than three hours late and three in five at least one hour late.

Figures for the first six months of 2007 show passengers were delayed by an average of 40 minutes - compared to 17 minutes last year.

One in seven delayed flights was more than an hour late, compared to just one in 20 last year.

Fergus Maclean, 49, of Fort William, Invernessshire, was held up in Palma with his family.

The civil engineer said: "Our flight was due to depart at 7.30pm but it was after midnight when we finally took off. A five-hour delay on a two-and-a-halfhour flight is unacceptable.

"In June, a relative going to Palma was eight hours late and compensated with a £4 meal voucher.

"Given we live two-and-a-half hours away from Glasgow, any delay makes things worse." Last month 140 passengers - many families with young children - were stranded at Palma for 141/2 hours waiting for their flight to Edinburgh.

On July 20, hundreds were stranded in Palma, Barcelona and Ibiza for up to 18 hours on flights to Glasgow.

And a doctor returning to Glasgow last week was held up at Barcelona for four-and-a-half hours.

This month the airline were the first in the UK to have a licence for direct transatlantic flights suspended after investigations by aviation safety authorities.

Average delays on flyglobespan's Glasgow-Vancouver service during May were six hours.

Average delays on the Gatwick to Toronto service were nearly two hours. James Freemantle, of official watchdog the Air Transport Users Council, said: "All complaints will be investigated and taken up with the firm."

Website forum Skytrax claims in June they got more complaints about flyglobespan than other UK airlines put together.

Flyglobespan said: "The unusually high level of technical problems with two aircraft leased from another carrier put a huge strain on our fleet.

"The domino effect resulted in delays.

"With the leased planes operating more smoothly, we remain committed to a punctual, value-for-money service."

They added: "In August our flights between Glasgow and Palma had an average departure delay of eight minutes and an average arrival delay of just four minutes."

The Glasgow-based airline were formed by Tom Dalrymple, 62, and employs over 1000 staff.

Source: Glasgow Sunday Mail
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Old November 15th, 2007, 04:48 PM   #31
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Bush To Address Effort To Ease Air Traffic Congestion Thurs
14 November 2007

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A week before the Thanksgiving rush clogs U.S. airports and highways, President George W. Bush will unveil steps to try to ease holiday travel congestion.

Bush will receive an update on the government's effort to alleviate air congestion and reduce flight delays from Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell Thursday. They've been tasked with bringing relief to frustrated air travelers before next summer, an effort that focuses on easing congestion above the New York metro area, which sees a third of the nation's air traffic.

"The federal government is taking steps to address the concerns of air travelers and will put measures in place to try to alleviate possible congestion over the busy holiday travel period," Stanzel said Wednesday. "Secretary Peters and DOT officials have been working to implement stronger consumer protections and have been meeting with airline officials regularly to discuss ways to reduce congestion in the N.Y. Metro airspace."

Stanzel didn't provide details of the measures the government is implementing.

In September, Bush asked Peters to report back to him by the end of the year with proposals to make air travel more palatable. Thursday's meeting won't be Peters' final report, but rather a look-ahead at the looming holiday travel season.

The administration offered legislative proposals in February that included a redesign of Northeastern traffic patterns. But it complains that lawmakers haven't addressed the issue quickly enough. Bush has called on Congress to overhaul the FAA's financing structure and introduce "market-based mechanisms," like congestion pricing and auctions, to reduce delays and free up airspace.

"There's a lot of anger amongst our citizens about the fact that, you know, they're just not being treated right," Bush said in September. "Endless hours sitting in an airplane on a runway, and there's no communication between the pilot and the airport is just not right."

The White House believes part of the issue can be addressed administratively, without involving Congress. The Transportation Department has initiated rulemaking to boost compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from oversold flights to approximately $624 from around $200 currently. And Sturgell said the plan to redesign New York's airspace could decrease delays by 20%, cut carbon emissions and result in a net noise reduction for around 600,000 people.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 05:13 AM   #32
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Bloomberg backs call for NY air congestion charge
14 November 2007
Financial Times

The New York City mayor has backed the introduction of an -airborne congestion charge to tackle delays at the city's airports.

Michael Bloomberg, who is pushing for a street congestion charge to limit traffic in Manhattan, has been lobbying the US administration about the consequences for the city's financial services and tourism sectors of federal proposals to restrict flights into New York's John F Kennedy airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering capping the number of flights into JFK at 80 per hour instead of the current uncapped level of up to 115 because of delays that reached record levels during the summer.

It has also raised the idea of introducing market-based measures such as charging airlines a tax for landing at peak hours.

Dan Doctoroff, New York's deputy mayor for economic development, said the -congestion problem was "acute" but capping flights was not the answer.

"We believe that we can reconfigure runways more effectively, airspace can be redesigned, even market-based pricing strategies could be employed before we have to go to caps," he said.

Congestion pricing would be resisted by airlines, Mr Doctoroff acknowledged, "but whatever we do isn't going to please everyone".

Eliot Spitzer, New York's state governor, and Jon Corzine, his New Jersey counterpart, both oppose caps on JFK and warned the FAA that one of the consequences would be to simply push flights on to the already crowded Newark airport.

Other cities fear any caps on JFK would have knock-on effects for their -airports.

Mary Peters, US transportation secretary, last month began talks with airlines and called on them to make voluntary reductions in flights. The FAA's preference is for market-based solutions.

It regards scheduling reductions as a last resort.

New York officials warn that the impact of flight caps would be felt by the business community and tourism.

George Fertitta, chief executive of NYC & Company, the mayor's marketing agency, said passenger flight costs would increase as a result of a cap.

"The number of visitors coming into the New York market will be decreased. It seems like a lose-lose situation," Mr Fertitta said. Business travellers were already plagued by visa and customs problems. *Airlines rounded on European parliamentarians yesterday after they voted to toughen proposals curbing greenhouse gases, which the carriers claim threaten the industry's future.

MEPs also brought a clash with the US closer by pressing for all flights entering and leaving the EU to be included in the bloc's emissions trading scheme from its launch in 2011, a year -earlier than the European Commission proposed.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 08:14 AM   #33
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Defense Department turning over unused military air space to relieve flight congestion
15 November 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ahead of the holiday travel crunch, President Bush ordered steps Thursday to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left passengers stranded.

The most significant change is that the Pentagon will open unused military airspace from Florida to Maine to create "a Thanksgiving express lane" for commercial airliners. It will be open next week for five days -- Wednesday through Sunday -- for the busiest days of Thanksgiving travel.

Officials said the chief benefit would be to speed takeoffs from New York airports, particularly during bad weather.

Bush called holiday travel "a season of dread for too many Americans." He said the problems with delayed flights are "clear to anybody who's been traveling. Airports are very crowded. Travelers are being stranded and flights are delayed, sometimes with a full load of passengers sitting on the runway for hours.

"These failures carry some real costs for the country, not just in the inconvenience they cause but in the business they obstruct and the family gatherings they cause people to miss,' the president said. "We can do better."

The new plan also will be in effect for the Christmas travel season. White House press secretary Dana Perino said the Federal Aviation Administration was imposing a holiday moratorium on nonessential maintenance projects, allowing all FAA personnel and equipment to be focused on keeping flights on time.

Further, the Department of Transportation will propose doubling the bump fee that airlines must pay to travelers who buy tickets but wind up without a seat. The penalty now is $200 or $400, depending on long the passenger has been inconvenienced. The proposed increase would make the fee $400 to $800. Perino said that rule, if it becomes final, wouldn't be in place until next summer's travel season.

Further, officials said the FAA would take other steps to increase efficiency such as rerouting airspace, using technology to fill unused space in the air and on the ground, and using more precise routes for takeoffs and landings.

Another proposed rule would make airlines liable for penalties for chronically delayed flights.

The president said other steps were under consideration to reduce crowded skies, such as charging airlines higher landing and takeoff fees at peak hours, and auctioning off landing and takeoff rights to the highest bidder.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters acknowledged that airlines would pass along to passengers some of the costs of the higher fees and penalities.

Domestic carriers are expected to fly roughly 27 million passengers worldwide over 12 days beginning Nov. 16, with planes about 90 percent full, according to the Air Transport Association.

Several airline executives, testifying before the House Transportation Committee Thursday on holiday travel prospects, said they were preparing to care for passengers in the event of weather or air traffic control-related delays.

Jetblue Airways CEO Dave Barger acknowledged that "we let our customers down" last February when hundreds of passengers were stranded on parked JetBlue planes for up to 10 1/2 hours. "In fact, to be candid, we failed them."

He said that with added deicing equipment and crew and expanded customer service personnel, " JetBlue is ready for the holidays."

But Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said there was "some very bad news for people who think there is going to be a quick cure to congestion." He said that even if everything went smoothly, implementation of the next-generation air traffic control system that should reduce disruptions was at least 15 years off.

Bush, on Sept. 27, announced that his administration was looking at ways to reduce air traffic congestion. The president urged Congress to look at legislation to modernize the FAA, and instructed Peters to report back to him quickly about ways to ensure that air passengers are treated appropriately and progress is made to ease congestion.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 09:30 AM   #34
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Airlines look to avoid winter weather delays

CHICAGO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines, hoping to ease the pain of winter weather delays, are beefing up services, staffing and flight schedules as part of a concerted effort to avoid the operational meltdowns that made last winter especially messy for some carriers.

Unpredictable winter weather is a yearly nuisance for airlines. But major delays and strandings for passengers at JetBlue Airways Corp and AMR Corp's American Airlines last winter revealed shortcomings in an airline industry that is flying packed planes with little margin for error built into schedules.

With pressure from unhappy passengers finding some backing in Washington, and holiday air traffic likely to surpass last year's, carriers are moving to minimize weather-related delays and ease the strain for affected travelers.

"I think everybody is a little bit more attuned to all the mistakes that were made last year," said airline consultant Darryl Jenkins.

"There is absolutely no slack in the systems," he said.

President George W. Bush planned to outline steps on Thursday aimed at relieving airline congestion.

In February, JetBlue suffered a major service disruption and public relations nightmare when an ice storm prompted the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights and stranded passengers for days. A similar incident in December stranded American Airlines passengers on the tarmac for hours.

NO LET-UP

Despite economic weakness, rising ticket prices and the well-publicized debacles of last winter, airlines see no let-up in travel demand this season.

In fact, the Air Transport Association said on Monday it expects a 4 percent year-over-year increase in the number of passengers traveling globally on U.S. carriers during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Major carriers are promoting the steps they are taking to ensure smooth travel year round. But they acknowledge that this year is shaping up to be the worst in memory for flight delays and are urging travelers to be prepared.

"If you always expect the worst and you don't have the worst then your frame of mind will be more positive," said Jim May, president of the industry's lead trade group, the Air Transport Association.

Northwest Airlines last week announced several initiatives to blunt the impact of storm delays. The airline said it would waive rebooking fees for customers delayed by weather and mechanical problems.

The carrier, which has been criticized for insufficient staffing, said it increased the number of reserve pilots by 30 percent. Northwest also said it has increased staffing of flight attendants and reservation agents.

American Airlines has said it is reserving seats in key markets on peak travel days for use by passengers whose flights have been canceled or delayed due to weather.

EARLIER INFORMATION

Other initiatives at American include providing customers with earlier weather information and invoking storm policies earlier to accommodate passengers whose flights have been affected by hurricanes.

United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp , has invested in self-service technology to keep inconvenienced travelers informed about their delays and to help them rebook quickly.

Barbara Higgins, United's vice president in charge of customer experience, said it improves the image of the entire airline industry if carriers attempt to head off snafus.

"We certainly don't take delight in any other carrier not performing well," Higgins said. "We believe that any positive service is good for the industry, regardless of who the carrier is."

Carriers this year also are scheduling more flights to accommodate demand. Industry scheduling practices, however, have been criticized by regulators, some congressional lawmakers and passenger advocates for aggravating congestion and delays at big airports.

Airlines are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to minimize delays nationwide, but the agency has said it is prepared to cut flight schedules at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, the worst for long delays. Congestion and delays in New York often ripple through the system and ground flights elsewhere.

Carriers blame the outdated air traffic control system for much of their problems and say their scheduling practices only reflect demand. (Additional reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Brian Moss)
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Old November 16th, 2007, 12:36 PM   #35
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'Express Lanes' to Ease Air Congestion
15 November 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a year of record delays, President Bush stepped forward Thursday to try to speed American air travelers to their Thanksgiving gatherings and back home on time.

Declaring that "business as usual is not good enough for American travelers," Bush announced at the White House a series of detailed technical steps to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left passengers stranded and turned holiday travel into "a season of dread for too many Americans."

In the most innovative move, the Pentagon will allow commercial airliners to use two air corridors off the eastern seaboard that are normally restricted to military flights. Supplementing the dozen air routes regularly used from Florida to New England, they will create "a Thanksgiving express lane" for commercial airliners from 4 p.m. EST Wednesday through Sunday -- the busiest days of Thanksgiving travel.

For the second time since September when he ordered the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with solutions, Bush personally intervened in the intractable problem of air congestion that previous presidents avoided and many aviation experts believe has only long-term solutions.

Crowded airports, stranded passengers and delayed flights "carry some real costs for the country," Bush said, "not just in the inconvenience they cause, but in the business they obstruct and family gatherings they cause people to miss."

Bush's moves were applauded by trade groups representing the airlines and airports but derided as ineffective by air traffic controllers who said their ranks have been thinned too much to handle the holiday crush efficiently. The pilots union called some long-term steps too drastic.

Democrats in Congress characterized Bush's actions as "better late than never," in the words of Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., House aviation subcommittee chairman, and not nearly enough in the view of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Even Transportation Secretary Mary Peters acknowledged, "If we get an ice storm on the eastern seaboard, it probably won't be pretty."

Americans traveling through one of the main chokepoints, New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport, remained skeptical Thursday afternoon.

"It's probably a good idea, but are the airlines going to be able to handle it?" asked Dawn East, 52, as she waited for her flight to Miami, which had been delayed for two hours. "It's not a problem of the lanes up there. It's an industry problem. There's no efficiency."

Mike Young, 60, who plans to travel to Arkansas over Thanksgiving to see his daughter, doesn't expect Bush's plan to help. "In theory, it sounds nice, but given his record, I don't trust it to work," said Young, a consultant, headed home to Seattle.

Garth Ehrlich, 51, a molecular biologist waiting for a delayed flight to Pittsburgh, also expects to travel over Thanksgiving to Los Angeles, and hopes the "Thanksgiving express lane" will ease delays and that "it doesn't in any way jeopardize national security."

On Capitol Hill, airline executives told the House aviation subcommittee they will reduce overbooking during the holidays and add ticketing staff. Airport association executives said they are finding places to sleep, including cots, and food and water for people who are stranded.

The chief benefit of using the military air routes would be to "get people out of the New York area quicker, especially if we have (bad) weather up and down the East Coast," said Nancy Kalinowski, systems operations vice president at the FAA. This could have a wider impact because 75 percent of the nation's air traffic delays are traced to congestion problems in the New York area.

Through September, more than 24 percent of U.S. flights arrived late, the worst on-time performance since comparable data began being collected in 1995. In these Transportation Department figures, on-time means less than 15 minutes late.

Many of the new moves also will be in effect for Christmas but even some of the short-term steps Bush announced -- like doubling the penalties airlines have to pay passengers bumped from overbooked flights -- won't take place until next summer at the earliest.

Bush acknowledged these short-term steps "do not cure the underlying problem: In certain parts of our country, the demand for air service exceeds the available supply. As a result, airlines are scheduling more arrivals and departures than airports can possibly handle."

He called on Congress to pass his FAA reauthorization bill, which would finance a multibillion-dollar modernizing of air traffic control by replacing radars with global positioning satellites. The House has passed a reauthorization, but Bush objects to some provisions. The Senate has yet to act.

Among the short-term steps:

--The FAA is imposing a holiday moratorium on nonessential maintenance projects, so all its personnel and equipment will be focused on keeping flights on time.

--New runway use patterns have been instituted at New York's Kennedy International that allow four to six more planes to arrive each hour, and Newark is about to add new takeoff routes.

--An FAA Web site, http://www.fly.faa.gov , will provide up-to-date information about airport delays. Passengers can sign up to have delay notices sent to their mobile phones.

The Transportation Department proposed new rules to double the bump fee that airlines must pay to travelers with tickets but no seat from $200 for those delayed less than two hours and $400 for those who wait more than two hours to $400 and $800. It also proposed that airlines devise legally enforceable plans to provide food, water, lavatories and medical care to passengers stranded in planes on airport taxiways.

Long-term, Bush expressed support for so-called "congestion pricing" proposals that would charge airlines higher fees to take off and land at peak hours in overcrowded airports to encourage them to spread flights throughout the day

Transportation Secretary Peters acknowledged airlines would pass along to passengers some of the costs of the higher fees and penalties. But she said, "Travelers already pay now for the lack of reliability, the lack of knowing they'll get there on time." She said her former private sector employer paid the extra cost of having employees travel a day early to be sure to be on time.

------

Associated Press writers Janet Frankston Loring in Newark, N.J., and Jim Abrams in Washington contributed to this story.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 08:43 PM   #36
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Airlines plug in new computer systems to keep planes from bunching up
16 November 2007
International Herald Tribune

FORT WORTH, Texas -- At any given moment, the airline industry's powerful networks of computers are setting fares, tracking reservations and calculating how much fuel each plane needs to reach its destination.

So when a storm shut down Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Dec. 29, forcing American Airlines to divert 130 planes to other airports in the region, what high-technology system kicked into gear at the world's largest airline?

''A legal pad,'' said Don Dillman, managing director of American's operations center here, where dispatchers direct flights around the world.

Lacking any mechanical system for keeping track of all those diverted planes, Dillman and his colleagues furiously scribbled down details of where they had gone, how long they had sat there, and whether pilots had enough time left on their daily work limits to keep flying when the weather cleared.

Ultimately, 44 of the planes sat out on tarmacs for more than four hours.

That episode and others - including when JetBlue Airways stranded 21 planes for more than four hours in New York in February - exposed industry weaknesses, and set off consumer protests and calls for tougher airline regulations.

It also sent many airlines into a computer-programming frenzy to reduce embarrassing service lapses. And now, after upgrading their software, airlines claim they can make good on promises not to strand passengers.

Those vows will be tested as the holiday travel season begins and winter storms descend on airports across the United States.

The technology improvements at American Airlines are, in one sense, encouraging. Pen-and-paper have been replaced by computer programs that display flight information in ways that are supposed to help prevent long waits on tarmacs and other service disruptions that most infuriate passengers. Top managers now automatically receive text messages when things begin to go awry.

Similar improvements have been made at JetBlue and at United Airlines. Other big carriers either have similar software or are in the process of acquiring it, they said.

But, in another sense, the improvements are troubling because they reveal the industry's relatively primitive approach to dealing with service disruptions.

''What took so long?'' said Mark Mogel, a retired software engineer who was stranded for five hours on an American flight in 2001, and then recently joined with others who had been stranded to lobby Congress for a limit on tarmac waits.

The kinds of programs American and others are installing are neither terribly expensive nor ''a great leap'' in technology, and thus could have been in place years earlier, Mogel said.

Not stranding passengers ''is just a matter of will,'' he added.

Airlines also promised not to strand passengers on tarmacs after a Northwest Airlines flight sat for hours in Detroit in 1999, but then the industry backslid.

Monte Ford, American's chief information officer, acknowledged that programs to help the airline recover quickly from storms and other disruptions had been developed too slowly.

''Why didn't it happen before?'' Ford said. ''There wasn't as much a sense of urgency. There wasn't as much concern about delays.''

American and other airlines built state-of-the-art computer systems prior to 1990. But investments did not keep up after that, he said. By the time he arrived in 2001, ''the back-end systems were antiquated, the network was small,'' Ford added.

And as American was preparing to make big investments in computers, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred, and sent the airline industry into a deep decline. Spending on technology was reduced. ''That changed our investment profile from innovation to survival,'' Ford said.

So when a storm descended over the Dallas-Fort Worth airport Dec. 29, dispatchers at American's operations center did what they had been doing for years: They ordered planes to circle in hopes the storm would pass, and then sent them on to other airports when it did not.

But with no single computer program keeping track of the diversions, and dispatchers too busy to compare notes, smaller airports were soon overwhelmed.

''We had 16 or 18,'' said Bonnie Sutton, the airline's general manager in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the carrier has just two gates and typically handles only smaller regional jets.

The storm camped over the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Austin, Texas, took 11 diverted American flights. Workers there opted to keep using their four gates for on-schedule flights headed to airports that were not closed down.

''We had an attitude that was pretty much a brick wall,'' said Dillman, the operations chief. ''You don't want the diverted flights to pull your normal flights down.''

So, the 11 planes sat in Austin, away from the terminal, four of them for more than six hours, and one for 9 hours and 16 minutes.

Trying his keep his legal-pad list up to date as Dec. 29 wore on, ''the list just keeps getting longer and longer,'' Dillman said. ''The way you find out something is you pick up the phone and someone starts yelling at you: 'What the heck are you doing letting five planes divert to Abilene - and they all arrive within 20 minutes?' ''

In the wake of Dec. 29, American promised not to leave passengers on grounded planes for more than four hours and began searching for ways to keep its word.

At an internal postmortem with top executives after the episode, one of Ford's technology lieutenants mentioned software under development at American that could track diversions and display them on a single screen.

When could he have it? Ford asked.

The program, in the works for two years, was rushed into the operations center in two weeks. The work of Tim Niznik, a senior manager who has a postdoctorate degree in operations research, it is called diversion tracker and uses color codes to warn dispatchers that an airport is receiving too many diverted flights. Little Rock's limit now, for instance, is six. Austin's is eight.

Other color codes warn when planes have sat too long on the ground.

Crew time limits, whether the lavatories have been serviced on the ground, whether the plane has been to a gate - all are tracked and automatically updated.

A companion program, called taxi monitor, shows all the planes that have pulled away from the gate but have not yet taken off, listing the time they have sat.

American had occasion to use the new software almost immediately. On Feb. 24, 101 flights were diverted as severe wind gusts closed Dallas-Fort Worth for more than five hours.

This time, the diverted flights were divvied up more evenly among surrounding airports. None took more than nine planes. Only one plane sat for more than four hours, according to the Transportation Department's inspector general.

Through the summer, Niznik worked with dispatchers to train them and add features to the diversion software.

On Sept. 10, a storm moved over Dallas-Fort Worth early in the morning. By 7:30, four flights had been diverted; by 8:15, 15 flights had been sent to five surrounding airports; by 9:15, 56 flights had been diverted and the software was showing that five airports had reached their limit.

There were long waits, to be sure. By noon, planes at five airports had been on the ground for more than three hours. But passengers had been taken to the gate and let off, Niznik said, looking at the program's account of the day.

What if all this stuff - the new software and training, the new procedures and corporate commitment to getting passengers off stranded planes - had been around last Dec. 29? On a scale of 1 to 100, how much of that day's misery might American's passengers have been spared?

Charlie Mead, a manager in dispatch, pondered the question.

American could reduce the suffering ''maybe 20 to 25'' percent, he said. ''It's not like we want to trap people in these airplanes.''
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Old November 17th, 2007, 06:05 AM   #37
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Questions and answers about military air routes and opening some up for holiday travelers
16 November 2007

This year, if you're flying up or down the East Coast around Thanksgiving, you might be passing through airspace that's usually reserved for the U.S. military.

But as you're dozing off in that airspace during your flight home -- groggy from that third helping of turkey -- you might start to wonder: Why can't I fly in this part of the sky all year round?

President Bush announced Thursday that this Thanksgiving season, from 4 p.m. EST Wednesday through Sunday, the Pentagon will allow commercial airliners to use two corridors that cut through airspace that's usually restricted to the military. It's part of a plan aimed at easing flight delays around the holiday.

Why does reserved military airspace exist in the first place? And when it comes to flight delays, will the opening up of the flight paths be a Thanksgiving treat -- or a turkey?

Here are answers to those questions and others.

------

Q: Why does the military need its own airspace?

A: The military needs the space to conduct exercises -- anything from flight maneuvers to simulated combat to dropping practice bombs -- where they want to keep their distance from civilian flights for safety reasons. (Some of the swaths of airspace cover tens of thousands of square miles.)

Fred Pease, executive director of the Department of Defense's Policy Board on Federal Aviation, offered the example of fighter planes conducting combat practice.

"You wouldn't want that activity to by carried out -- because it's very dynamic -- close to an airliner that's trying to travel from point A to point B. So you segregate that activity."

------

Q: How much use does the military get out of its reserved air space?

A: That varies quite a bit, based on geography and what's going on at nearby military bases. If a given base is conducting an elaborate exercise, a large area of reserved airspace will get busy for a stretch of time.

------

Q: Can civilian flights use military-reserved flight space when no military exercises are taking place?

A: Sometimes, yes. So the administration's plan may not be as revolutionary as it may sound.

While it's unusual for military flight paths to be made available for civilian use days in advance -- as is happening this Thanksgiving -- the military and the Federal Aviation Administration will often agree to let this happen on a case-by-case basis.

Military officials "don't just keep everybody out for no reason," said Cass Howell, chairman of the aeronautical science program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. "If the airplanes from the military are not there, then the FAA would typically ask and they would get permission."

------

Q: Where are the two air corridors that are being made available to commercial flights?

A: They're just off the East Coast, extending from an area near Long Island in New York to a spot in the Atlantic east of the Florida-Georgia border. From that point, the corridors meet up with flight paths already available to civilian aircraft. One of the paths goes north, the other goes south. In both corridors, commercial airliners are allowed to fly at altitudes of 24,000 feet and higher.

------

Q: What is the administration hoping to accomplish?

A: It's all about reducing congestion in the crowded skies around New York -- which is to blame for 75 percent of the nation's air traffic delays.

The chief goal is to "get people out of the New York area quicker, especially if we have (bad) weather up and down the East Coast," said Nancy Kalinowski, systems operations vice president at the FAA.

------

Q: Why is the airspace around places like New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles so congested?

A: Howell, of Embry-Riddle, attributes this to the airlines' "hub and spoke" system, where large numbers of flights converge on a handful of airports, where passengers are then redistributed on connecting flights.

"Whenever you have that kind of system, where people are going to all go through one of those chokepoints, at some point, you reach capacity. And some of these places reached capacity years ago."

------

Q: Will the availability of the two corridors of military airspace help solve this problem?

A: It might help somewhat. But congestion in the skies is one of many issues causing delays -- a relatively minor one, some say.

"It's not an airspace issue," Howell said. "It's a lack-of-concrete issue, in my view. We just don't have enough airports for the activities that we need to do in terms of air commerce."

David A. Castelveter, vice president for communications at the Air Transport Association -- a trade group representing major airlines -- says the use of the military airspace is "a very good first step that will help us should we run into any severe weather over the holiday." But he adds, "There is no one solution to reducing delays at JFK (Airport) or in the congested New York airspace."

Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association -- a union representing controllers -- doesn't think opening the military airspace will help reduce delays at all.

"The reason is we just don't have enough staffing," he said, saying there are 7.5 percent fewer fully trained veteran controllers on staff now than this time last year.

"Any time you open up a new route of airspace ... it takes an extra position to be able to handle that," he said, adding that large air traffic centers are "working short-staffed as it is, over the course of the summer having to combine positions, having to combine sectors of airspace, which slows things down because you just can't run more traffic with fewer controllers. It's not safe."

------

Associated Press writer Michael J. Sniffen in Washington contributed to this report.
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Old November 17th, 2007, 04:00 PM   #38
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US Airways: 40% Of Flights Could Depart Late During Holidays
16 November 2007

PHOENIX (AP)--The holiday travel season will be so hectic this year that US Airways says even if goals are met, it expects about 1,400 flights to depart late each day.

According to its November employee newsletter, the Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier says its goal for the holiday season is to have 60% of its 3,500 daily flights depart on time. That means about 1,400 wouldn't push off from the gate according to schedule.

"We of course want as many planes to go on time as we can," US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) spokesman Morgan Durant said. But with possible winter storms delaying flights and the expected flood of passengers during the holidays, Durant said the airline decided that 60% was "a challenging but achievable goal."

Last year, 53% of US Airways mainline flights departed on time in November, and 47% departed on time in December, according to the employee newsletter.

Durant added that if a flight departs late, that doesn't necessarily mean it will land late as well. He said some planes can fly a little faster and make up time they lost sitting at the gate.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US Airways slightly lagged the national average of on-time arrivals during November and December of 2006, with 73% of its flights arriving within 14 minutes of the posted schedule. The national average was 74%.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group, said the US Airways goal "certainly doesn't suggest there is much to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Mitchell said many people are "very apprehensive" about flying this holiday season.

His advice to travelers: "Really lower your expectations and build a lot of time into it, because it's going to be ugly in certain circumstances."

US Airways' goal of 60% on-time departures was announced as part of the carrier's "Holiday Hustle" employee incentive program. The airline also hopes that no more than seven bags are mishandled per 1,000 customers.

If the departure and mishandled baggage goals are met, the airline says it will give each employee a $100 bonus. If only one of the goals are met, employees will get $50.

To help the winter travel season go smoothly, US Airways says it will add staff to airport lobbies, check-in counters, baggage areas and airport towers.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 05:42 AM   #39
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Gatwick and Heathrow worst in Europe for delays
17 November 2007
Financial Times

Gatwick and Heathrow had the worst records for delayed flight departures among all leading European airports this autumn. The two airports were also among the worst performers for delayed flight arrivals, along with Istanbul.

Gatwick, which has just one runway, and Heathrow, with two runways, are the most congested airports in Europe.

According figures from the Association of European Airlines yesterday, 41 per cent of flights at Gatwick and 39 per cent of flights at Heathrow were delayed for more than 15 minutes on departure during the period from July to September - the busiest months of the year.

The two London airports were followed by Rome and Dublin, which also performed poorly, while the other big European hub airports at Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Amsterdam Schiphol all had significantly better punctuality.

At Charles de Gaulle 29 per cent of departures were delayed by more than 15 minutes, at Frankfurt 22 per cent and at Amsterdam 21 per cent.

The AEA's data on airport delays come just two weeks after it published figures showing that British Airways had the worst performance among leading European airlines for flight delays and misplaced baggage in the same period from July to September. Heathrow is BA's global hub, while the company is one of the two biggest operators at Gatwick.

The latest AEA report shows that the average delay on departure at Gatwick was 33 minutes and at Heathrow 32.

The ranking of London's two leading airports among the worst performing in Europe, and the dismal punctuality and baggage record of British Airways, will add further urgency to the publication by the government next week of a public consultation on controversial plans to build a third runway and a sixth passenger terminal at Heathrow.

Heathrow was designed for 45m passengers a year but is handling 67m. The airport, the busiest in Europe measured by passenger numbers, has no spare runway capacity and is operating on the same two runways it had when it opened 60 years ago.

BA warned earlier this month that it was "vulnerable to short-term operational disruption" and that there was little it could do to mitigate against the risk.

The public consultation will put forward proposals to change operating procedures at Heathrow to maximise use of the present runways as well as long-term plans for the third runway.

Any such moves will be subject to long planning inquiries and will meet fierce opposition from environmental campaigners and local residents groups. It has been estimated the runway construction would need the demolition of 700 homes.

Even if objections can be overcome a third runway is unlikely to be operational before the second half of the next decade.
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Old November 19th, 2007, 12:20 PM   #40
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Transportation Secretary promises to reduce holiday delays
18 November 2007

DENVER (AP) - With the first major winter holiday just four days away, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters reaffirmed President Bush's pledge to make travel as painless as possible Sunday.

"The holidays should be a time of cheer," not of glum passengers waiting for flights that will never come, she said at a news conference at Denver International Airport.

Last Thursday, Bush disclosed he would make two lanes of military airspace available off the East Coast to commercial airlines, as well as other measures meant to curb congestion that had turned travel into "a season of dread for too many Americans."

This year's delays are the worst on record.

Denver and the Colorado ski resorts have been going through an unusually warm and dry spell. Some major resorts will not be open for Thanksgiving. However, enough snow is expected this week to cause travel delays.

Peters said she has suspended all construction at airports and urged carriers to schedule as many flights as possible in no-peak hours, KUSA-TV reported. She also said the ground-based radar system is a vestige of World War II that needs to be replaced.

Turner West, executive director of DIA, said musicians will be brought into the teepee-shaped terminal to get people into the proper holiday spirit. The Denver Post reported that the airport security company will add two new inspection lines, and airport workers will offer water bottles and diapers to those waiting in line.

Denver invested millions in new snow removal equipment after blizzards last year keep DIA clogged for weeks after blizzards. "We are very hopeful it will be a very efficient operation," West said.

Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told the Post he expected delays to increase this year. He said there are 7.5 percent fewer veteran controllers in towers, than two years ago, and they will be handling 4 percent more traffic.

"The FAA tried this notion of increasing airspace on a large scale once before, two years ago," Church said. "It didn't work in terms of reducing delays. So clearly, airspace is not the problem. Staffing is the problem."

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., urged Peters to immediately hire the 58 additional screeners the airport managers have asked for. "As the country's fifth-busiest airport, the prolonged security wait-times are unacceptable, especially during the holiday season," she said in an e-mailed statement.
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