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Flight delay countermeasures questioned

Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation actions that are being implemented will have a limited effect on reducing flight delays during the summer compared to last year, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study released Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation actions that are being implemented will have a limited effect on reducing flight delays during the summer compared to last year, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study released Tuesday.

The study by the federal watchdog agency and testimony a representative issued at a hearing in Washington were based on an analysis of DOT data on airline on-time performance, a review of documents and reports, and interviews with officials from DOT, FAA, airport operators, and airlines, as well as aviation industry experts and associations.

The GAO cited DOT data that show that more than one in four flights either arrived late or were canceled in 2007, making it one of the worst years for delays in the last decade.

The GAO noted that to reduce delays and congestion beginning this summer, DOT and FAA have been implementing several actions to improve capacity at the airport or system level and the hourly schedule caps on operations at the New York area airports.

"DOT's and FAA's capacity-enhancing initiatives and demand management policies may help reduce delays, but the collective impact of these actions on reducing delays in 2008 is limited," the GAO concluded.

FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones said the agency has put initiatives in place to try to reduce delays, particularly at the New York area airports. She said weather and congestion are problems.

"I think some of what we're putting into place is working, and some of it is pretty much out of our control," Jones said.

Tyler Duvall, acting undersecretary for policy at the DOT, said he believes the actions the government has taken are having a substantial impact in making sure the flight delay problem doesn't get worse, especially in the New York area.

"In our view, we are using every administrative tool we have at our disposal," Duvall said. "In the long run, Congress has to act to modernize the air traffic control system."