Airlines' Near-Collapse Brings Changes To FAA

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The massive realignment of the airline industry has the FAA pondering its future deployment of resources. With the near-collapse of some major airlines and the surge in popularity of discount carriers, some traditional hubs are seeing markedly reduced traffic volumes while what used to be secondary airports are starting to burst at the seams. "We are watching that [low-cost industry] carefully," Steven Brown, the FAA's air traffic chief, told Reuters. While overall numbers are returning to pre-9/11 levels, traffic at Boston's Logan Airport and at San Francisco is down 22 percent, while Dulles is off 31 percent. Meanwhile, former fringe airports like Chicago Midway, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Baltimore-Washington are getting more and more business, most of it from carriers like Southwest, ATA and JetBlue. Brown said the agency is coping with the uneven recovery for now but it might have to react if the trend continues. "It doesn't shake the whole tree," he said. "But if they continue to grow their market share and if they continue with their strategy of high-frequency, shuttle-type service, we could get to a point where we would have to change our response." That could mean more overtime, hiring new controllers or installing better equipment.