ATA says more must be done to accelerate NextGen A.T.M System

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, have said that while government data show that flight delays have fallen recently, much more must be done to improve service by accelerating the implementation of NextGen - a modernized air traffic management (ATM) system.“Today’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report shows that customer service has improved, especially in getting passengers to their destinations as scheduled, but much more must be done, and now,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. “We can significantly improve the service that we provide travelers and shippers by jumpstarting the transformation of our antiquated ATM system to a more efficient, environmentally friendly system using satellite technology.”

The Air Travel Consumer Report showed that the nation’s largest airlines had a higher rate of on-time flights this past February than in February 2008, and that tarmac delays of three hours or more also were down. According to the DOT report, the primary causes for delay were system, maintenance or crew problems, as well as extreme weather and security. The rate for mishandled baggage also improved while customer complaints were down.

The February improvements are attributable both to the efforts of the airlines and the government to improve schedule integrity and also to the significant drop in the number of flights in 2009 versus 2008. “We are pleased to see the improvement, but the clear warning is that as the economy recovers and demand again grows, we will find unacceptable levels of delay unless we move swiftly to modernize the ATM system,” said May. “We have a window of opportunity to accelerate system modernization during this period of slackening demand - a failure to act now will exact a tremendous cost increasing delays in just a few years. The administration and Congress have a unique opportunity to stimulate the economy while preparing for growth. They must make our NextGen a national priority.”