AOPA notes that the DOT reported
this week that airline flight delays in June were worse than either
May or June of last year. The airlines jumped on the news to again
claim that it is an outdated air traffic control system and an
“unfair” funding system that's responsible.
“The facts clearly show that the airlines’ own
scheduling practices are a major cause of the problems,” said
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Phil Boyer.
“And they can’t expect ATC modernization to cure all
AOPA supports the House FAA funding bill, H.R.2881, which
provides funding for needed modernization of the air traffic
control system through a proven system of aviation excise
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) data shows the
major causes of airline delays are weather and scheduling. And as
AOPA has said before, tinkering with the aviation tax system and
building NextGen (the air traffic modernization program) are still
not going to allow airliners to penetrate a line of thunderstorms
or occupy the same spot at the same time on a runway or
More than 40 percent of airline delays are attributed to
weather, according to the BTS. Looking at another data set, you see
that the air carriers themselves are responsible for more than 25
percent of their delays through things they can control
(maintenance or crew problems, baggage loading, fueling, etc.).
The issue of the airlines scheduling more flights than the
airport can handle is a little more difficult to tease out of the
BTS statistics. More than 28 percent of airline flight delays are
attributed to “national aviation system (NAS)
But that’s a big pot. Included in the NAS category are
delays due to non-extreme weather conditions, airport operations,
heavy traffic volume, and air traffic control.
So if Airline X can’t push back and taxi out when
it’s scheduled to because there are already too many
scheduled flights trying to depart, it will be classified as an NAS
delay. And it’s the airlines themselves that determine how
they are going to classify and report a delayed flight.
But AOPA analyzed the June airline
schedules at all of the major airports. And at 17 out of 35 hub
airports, the airlines have scheduled more flights during their
daily “pushes” than the airports can handle in
instrument weather conditions. It doesn’t take a thunderstorm
to delay flights all across the country. Just have visibility drop
below three miles or the ceiling below 1,000 feet at one of these
17 major airports and flights will be delayed.
Some of the worst airports for overscheduled airline flights
include Chicago O'Hare, Atlanta Hartsfield, Newark, John F.
Kennedy, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and
Las Vegas McCarran.