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Sun, Aug 05, 2007

Delta Latest To Appeal To Passengers In FAA Funding Battle

AOPA Says Pilots "Need To Set Delta Straight"

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines -- fresh off reporting the highest load factors in the carrier's history for July -- is the latest major carrier to appeal to its customers to support the airlines' plan to fund the development of the FAA's NextGen air traffic control system... by slapping general aviation with a greater burden to fund that system.

"Within a decade, traffic delays will cost the economy $40 billion a year, and you, the customer, a great deal of wasted time," an email sent by Delta to customers this week reads. "There will be 85% more jets in the sky in the next 15 years -- an increase driven largely by corporate jets, fractional jets, air-taxis and very light jets.

"To an air traffic controller, a jet with a celebrity or a CEO takes as much effort as a commercial flight with 250 passengers," the missive continues. "However, the current system is funded almost entirely by the airline ticket tax, meaning that you are paying for nearly 95% of the air traffic system while corporate and private jets get a free ride!"

Delta's actions won't end there, either. The Salt Lake Tribune reports starting September 1 -- 29 days before current funding for the FAA is due to expire -- the carrier will play a short video on the subject on every flight, to encourage passengers to contact their leaders in Congress to back the plan, in a last-ditch effort to sway legislators to the airlines' side.

It's an old song... and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says it's grown tired and stale.

"Here's the truth: Most airline delays are due to the airlines' own scheduling practices and weather. So says the Department of Transportation," " AOPA responds. "General aviation flights are less than 4 percent of the traffic at the nation's 10 busiest airports. Air traffic control modernization (NextGen) will improve things, but it's not a panacea. It can't make thunderstorms disappear, nor allow two airliners to land simultaneously on the same runway.

"GA is willing to help pay for NextGen and has accepted the fuel tax increases in the House FAA funding bill (H.R.2881) to do so," the pilots group adds. "The airlines demand NextGen and demand a tax decrease."

AOPA originally asked its members to e-mail outgoing Delta Air Lines CEO Gerald Grinstein, but reports some e-mails bounced back... so the organization encourages its members to instead email Delta's customer support, to set the record straight.

Purely as a public service, ANN will gladly pass on that address, as well...

FMI: Tell Delta Customer Service How You Feel About User Fees, www.aopa.org, www.delta.com

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