Flight Delay Solutions Get Mixed Reaction

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President Bush’s plans to ease congestion and reduce flight delays over the coming holidays were panned as too little, too late in some circles but embraced as a sign of hope in others. Bush announced that “the epidemic of flight delays” will be addressed with the opening of “Thanksgiving express lanes” through military operating areas on the East Coast through the five days surrounding Thanksgiving. That’s been done before for weather diversions, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory told The Chicago Tribune and it might help a bit. However, critics say Bush’s solutions are politically motivated and will have little practical benefit, especially if the weather turns sour. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association maintains that opening up airspace is futile if there aren’t enough controllers to manage it. It claims there are 7.5 percent fewer experienced controllers on the job this Thanksgiving than last and traffic is up 4 percent. "Until the FAA finds a way to keep its veteran controllers on staff to handle holiday traffic, and ALL traffic year-round, and train new hires, the system will continue to deteriorate," NATCA spokesman Doug Church said in a statement. Bush also said FAA staff are to stop all "non-essential work" so they can help keep traffic moving, but details on just who would do what where were scarce. Bush’s political foes wrote the initiatives off as the president’s attempt to appear to be doing something in the face of a looming holiday season of increased delays and mounting frustration from travelers.