Continental Airlines` (NYSE: CAL and CAL.A) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Gordon Bethune, today stressed the need for immediate and fundamental management and financial reform of the air traffic control system at a luncheon for the Aero Club in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, Bethune urged the airlines and all branches of government to work together in order to improve the United States` aviation infrastructure.
“We are at a crossroads. The horror stories are real and they are happening to us, to our employees and to our customers every day, every hour, every minute. I am here to tell you that gridlock is not a problem for the future, it is happening now, today - as we speak. We are not meeting the needs of our passengers and shippers,” said Bethune in his remarks to the group today.
Bethune praised the team and leadership of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but pointed out that the talented team at the FAA needs to be given the tools and resources to provide a level of customer service that meets the needs of our system and passengers while preserving the excellent safety record of the U.S. airline industry.
While the industry is, and will continue to be, safe, the system is not efficient. FAA delays per 1,000 operations for the first five months of 1999 are up 267 percent at Detroit, 131 percent at Dallas/Fort Worth, 105 percent at Cleveland, 142 percent at Cincinnati and 98 percent at Chicago O`Hare. Each year, 625 million passenger minutes of delay cost the economy more than $4 billion annually and result in passengers being delayed 28,500 hours each day on average and these numbers are growing. Even a 1 percent improvement in air traffic control efficiency would translate into at least $200 million in savings annually in airborne and ground operations for the 10 major airlines in the United States.
Bethune closed his speech by praising Chairman Shuster`s “Air 21” as a “critical first step” but emphasized that “it`s time to set aside our individual agendas so that we can bring about the kind of success at the FAA that we have seen at Continental. The solution is a combination of budget treatment found in “Air 21,” the recommendations of the 1997 National Civil Aviation Review Commission and the business principles that the U.S. airline industry has seen applied to air traffic control systems around the world.”