James C. May has testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation on airline service improvementsPassenger and crew safety are always of paramount importance to
airlines, which fly only in safe conditions. Rare extreme weather events
in the past few months have caused airlines to wait out the weather, and
this regrettably caused a few extended delays. But as rare as these
events are, so too is the frequency of extended delays. According to
Department of Transportation reporting procedures, 36 out of more than
seven million flights experienced extended delays of more than five
hours in 2006 - just five ten-thousandths of a percent.
After safety, on-time service is the next critical factor for success in
the airline business; therefore, airlines devote an enormous amount of
resources to studying delay causes and finding ways to improve
operations. Airlines understand that delays not only inconvenience and
frustrate passengers, they also add expense to their bottom line.
The proposed legislation will force airlines to inconvenience most
passengers to satisfy the demand of just one who wishes to deplane.
Congress cannot legislate good weather or the best way to respond to bad
weather because every situation is unique. Airlines need the flexibility
to deal with each delay situation individually to help ensure that the
fewest people possible are inconvenienced.
“In addition to those affected, no one cares more about delivering all
air passengers on time than the airlines and their employees,” said May.
“As a result of the recent unique severe weather incidents, airlines
have reviewed their policies and procedures and updated contingency
plans for extended delays.
“Delays of five hours or more are extremely rare, but shorter delays are
plaguing the system and getting worse because of the vast increase in
corporate jets,” May later added. “Thirty-five years ago, corporate jets
were a novelty but two-thirds of all jets today are corporate and they
are literally clogging our skies. Congress can reduce delays by
authorizing a satellite-based air traffic control system that will
relieve the traffic jam in our skies that frustrates thousands of
passengers each day.”