Next Summer: Fewer Flight Delays, But Higher Prices

Here are the results of those secret meetings we told you about last week: flight delays may be cut by as much as 25% by next summer, but the consequence will be fewer flight times to choose from, and higher ticket prices. The airlines are suggesting cutting the number of flights out of the three hubs most responsible for the nation’s delays—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. “About three-fourths of chronic delays around the country can be traced back to congestion at these three airports,” reports Kiplinger’s.

The move is an attempt by the airlines to address both the incredibly high rate of delays (up to 28% this year) and the deep customer dissatisfaction (up to 1893% this year), before the feds step in with legislation or congestion pricing. They’re expected to produce an official draft of their congestion-reduction plan this December, and Congress says they’ll be checking in every three months to monitor progress—which we think means one more time before summer comes around?

“Smoother Skies Ahead for Frustrated Travelers” [Kiplinger's]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. azntg says:

    I think that’s a fair compromise in principle. But if the airlines continue their track record, they’ll manage to jack up the air prices, while delays continue to increase (always remember to point your finger to the tower, guys. It never gets old!) and overall service continues to hit the crapper. Of course the Congress will follow up, after the lobby provides a healthy kickback!

    Yes, that’s the skeptical in me.

  2. FLConsumer says:

    If they’ll give me better service after charging more $$$, I’m all for it. I’d gladly pay an extra $100 per flight to help abolish the TSA while we’re at it.

    Dumb question. The actual article makes a brief mention of modernising the ATC and that it’ll take up to eight years. What method of ATC does the military use and is there a way to port it over to the civillian side?

  3. yikz says:

    They really need to put in another airport or expand White Plains. And if they do, they should connect it with Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK with high speed rail service.
    I wouldn’t be so concerned about legislation. I’d be concerned about the cost of gates. I think the FAA still controls the gate prices in NYC. They could just jack the prices skyhigh and let the market settle the issue.
    Airlines charge more, which means less people fly, which means less congestion. Airlines who use NYC airports as hubs will simply start to move some of their hub operations elsewhere. Or they’ll get rid of the little regional jets and move to bigger airplanes.
    People will start to fly into Philly or White Plains or other outlying airports.

    None of this says anything about the terrible flight delays out of Atlanta. I’m sick of it. It’s a poorly run airport.

  4. JKinNYC says:

    @yikz: Stewart. [www.swfny.com]

    This will be the 4th NYC airport when they get it up to snuff.

  5. Lordstrom says:

    So instead of delays being almost 1/3, they think they can get it down to 1/5. That is still far too much to justify any price increase.

  6. TechnoDestructo says:

    Hey, if they had high speed rail in the northeast (REAL high speed rail) they could spread the load out quite a bit.

    But then maybe people would get a taste for it and want to replace air travel? (God I can dream…)

  7. headhot says:

    bigger airplanes + few flights = same capacity + less congestion + maybe lower costs.

  8. OwenCatherwood says:

    @FLConsumer: The military uses the same ground-based radar as the FAA, and both agencies control both military and civilian aircraft.

  9. Jay Levitt says:

    Salon’s “Ask the Pilot” writer (Patrick Smith) claims that the big problem is land-side, not air-side, so cutting back landings/takeoffs in NYC will help a great deal. Essentially, the airlines have been scheduling more landings and takeoffs per hour at each airport than that airport can actually accommodate. The reason? “People demand choices.” The result, of course, is gridlock.

    And as Headhot alludes to, they’ve been using many smaller regional jets instead of a few larger-capacity planes, so it takes more ground resources to transport the same number of passengers.

    As for migrating to outlying hubs, Smith says: “Big, busy hubs are just that because of the number of passengers who connect there. People transfer from flight to flight — from small plane to big plane, from international to domestic, and vice versa. A major airline moving its entire operation to an outlying airport would be one thing (albeit a tremendously difficult and expensive one), but by shifting a portion of operations, it instantly loses millions of annual passengers…If anything, encouraging the use of satellite airports dumps more aircraft into the system. If American Airlines were to begin flying from Stewart-Newburgh to London, it would not do so instead of flying from JFK, but in addition to flying from JFK… If a certain number of passengers are siphoned away, the tendency isn’t to cancel flights outright, it’s to reduce the size of the aircraft. A 767 becomes an MD-80. An MD-80 becomes an RJ. The competitor keeps the same number of planes in the air…”

  10. kimsama says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Man, right on. I am so jealous of other countries’ vast and excellent rail systems. When I lived in Japan, I could get anywhere by train, and it was reliable and on time and not ridiculously expensive. Sigh…we can dream.

  11. BK88 says:

    @FLConsumer: The military uses the radar,
    being upgraded across the country to ASR-11 models, and regular radio
    communication to control traffic, just like the FAA.

    As for modernizing the system, the “old” “1950′s era ground based radar” will never go away, the military will not allow it.

    The big push is to switch to GPS. Most airliners are capable of
    satellite navigation (GPS), or via a flight computer and those pesky
    1960s era ground based radio nav aids able to obtain the same precision
    as GPS. However, with the new system, planes will transmit their
    position/altitude/speed to everyone, including other planes in the area
    and ATC. Currently ATC radar updates planes positions every 4 seconds
    for approach/departure control, and up to 7-12 seconds for high
    altitude flights. With the “new” system, postion will be updated every
    second.

    We do need more runways and less over scheduling of capacity period.

    –BK

  12. JMH says:

    I’m confused – how does “1893%” customer dissatisfaction work?

  13. amypop says:

    @JKinNYC: Aside from airlines leaving SWF, I think a big problem is that pretty much any flight you take from there (aside from Florida) is connecting. If they can get a few more longer flights in there, it will be seen as a more viable option.

    It’s disappointing that American has pulled out of Stewart. You could at least go direct from Newburgh to Chicago on AA and connect from there. (Two years ago, I flew SWF-LAX, connecting through Chicago for 181.00 R/T. No one in JFK, LGA or EWR could even come close.)

  14. Hawkins says:

    @JMH: I think that was a joke.

    I would thing that the correct number would be more like elevendy MILLION percent customer dissatisfaction.

  15. hapless says:

    @JMH:

    Twenty times as many complaints from customers.