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Reforms needed at US airliners: Air travel delays

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Most major US airports experience flight disruptions on a daily basis, with Chicago O’Hare International Airport leading the pack. Within the top 10 airports in major US cities, each airport experienced more than 50,000 delays or cancellations in the past year.

President of, Paul Hudson, who is also a member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, reported that major airport-based reforms are needed immediately. First, there needs to be passenger representation on airport governing boards in order to have fair view of the issues. Also, the government must ensure that passenger rights information is freely available at airports.

A third major airport for New York and Chicago metro areas needs to be added in order to relieve chronic and growing congestion delays. Additionally, it should be mandated or at the lest encouraged to have larger aircraft used at congested airports. What airports need right  now are for runway expansion to be prioritized versus terminal rebuilding and parking, and for access to common gates to be allowed in a use it or lose it manner, especially at hub airports. Major airports are also in need of express rail links to central business districts as well as to off-airport car rental centers in large metro areas.

US law must be modified or repealed so that regulations no longer prohibit federal government ownership and operation of airports and the streamlining of private airport operation and ownership is achieved. Further, government new airport planning funding must be increased from 50% to 80% – this has been pending approval of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) since 2017. There also needs to be a review to reduce airport antitrust exemptions that increase passenger expenses, travel times, and negatively impact national air transportation efficiency. The US government should consider nationalizing major airport operations and control in a new federal airport agency or corporation, and bond indenture clauses that limit airline competition and access needs to be banned.

As for airlines, equipment needs to be installed by the end of 2020 for NextGen ATC operation, and there should be live testing annually of emergency and irregular operations plan. Airlines need to be required to have ready reserves of personnel and equipment sufficient to prevent a cancelation rate of over 2% of flights and for on time performance of over 85%.

To make these regulations meaningful, there needs to be the consequence of minimum fines for airlines that do not comply, such as $3,000 per passenger for 3-hour rule violations with $1,000 paid to each passenger plus $10 per minute for delays over 3 hours. Also, minimum fines of $1,000 per passenger should be paid with half going to each passenger for flight cancellations based on false claims of force majeure – weather or ATC when a real reason is lack of equipment or airline personnel.

Passengers must feel they can take matters into their own hands on certain issues. The reciprocity rule, also known as Rule 240, must be restored to allow passengers on canceled or excessively-delayed flights of over 90 minutes to use their tickets on another airline with available seating flying to the same destination. Passengers must be provided with alternate transportation and a ticket refund under the presumption when a flight is less than 30% booked. Finally, plain language notice of delay compensation must be made, especially for international trips, and airlines must be required to provide stranded passengers with lodging, meal, and ground transportation.

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