Continental Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gordon Bethune today called for immediate reform of the deteriorating Air Traffic Control (ATC) system and urged the government to consider privatization as a viable solution. His remarks came today during his address to the Global Summit on International Aviation Infrastructure in Washington, D.C.
Bethune pointed to the success other countries have achieved by shifting government-run air traffic control systems to privately run companies and suggested a similar solution could be applied to solve our problems here in the U.S. “Like Canada and so many other countries before us, we must seriously reconsider the government`s role in the operation of the ATC system while acknowledging its absolutely critical role in safety regulation,” said Bethune in his remarks to the group.
“Our nation`s air traffic controllers are the glue that holds our aging and under-funded system together,” said Bethune. “They do a wonderful job, especially considering what they have to work with. But, despite their heroic efforts, the system is failing and we must move quickly to give them the tools necessary to fix the system and maintain the integrity of our nation`s infrastructure.”
In response to recent claims by some that the system has gridlocked due to the airlines` scheduling practices, Bethune pointed out that FAA statistics show less than 10 percent of delays are due to scheduling. Airlines have been forced to increase scheduled flight times to accommodate increased ATC delays. For example, the actual flying time for a flight from Washington/National to Newark is 37 minutes, but ATC delays force Continental to schedule that flight for 75 minutes.
“This is an issue of enormous national and international significance and it must be heard by our Congress, by the Administration and by all those who can and will influence the future shape of our aviation system,” Bethune stated. “I believe that we can, in partnership with the government, create an independent ATC system that will keep pace with the growth of our population and increase in aviation because it`s no longer held hostage to the federal budget process. With 50 percent more passengers expected to be flying in the next decade and delays already near crisis proportions, we have no time to lose.”