Better Late? Or Never?
As Furloughs Kick In, Delays Hit Major Airports
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The FAA furloughs kicked in Sunday despite a lawsuit filed by two airline trade associations and the Airline Pilots Association, and it’s already causing frustration for travelers.
Federal officials say they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 FAA employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers, if they are going to cut more than $600 million from the agency’s budget by the end of September as required by the sequester cuts. 
That means each employee will lose a day of work every other week.
As one might expect, fewer air traffic controllers means planes take off and land less often.
Delta Airlines put the following statement on their website:
On behalf of our customers and employees, Delta is disappointed that furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration personnel will result in delays and cancellations across the national air transportation system. The FAA has advised Delta that furlough-driven delays are most likely to occur at the following 10 airports:
New York-LaGuardia
New York-JFK
Newark Liberty
Fort Lauderdale
Chicago O’Hare
Chicago Midway
San Francisco
Los Angeles (LAX)
San Diego
Delta will continue to do everything possible to mitigate these delays for our customers. As always, we encourage customers to check their flight status at or on the Fly Delta app before arriving at the airport.
Customers may contact their representatives in Congress about the FAA furloughs at
Predicting delays that would stretch from coast to coast, the airline industry and the nation’s largest pilots union joined forces last week to sue the FAA over its decision to furlough air traffic controllers.    
However, the earliest the court is likely to schedule a hearing is sometime next week, after the furloughs have begun, said Nick Calio, head of Airlines for America, which represents major carriers.
FAA officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Airlines Want You Stuck On The Tarmac Over 3 Hours
Now that Federal Aviation Administration furloughs have gone into effect, the U.S. Department of Transportation is considering lifting our rule that says airplanes can’t remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights before allowing passengers to deplane. 
Two airline industry associations filed a motion with the DOT requesting a moratorium on the FlyersRights’ backed 3-hour rule for at least 90 days or until the FAA furloughs end. 
They cite the “substantial delay and disruption to air travel that will occur at U.S. airports from the FAA decision to implement daily ground delays and reduce air traffic control personnel” as part of the federal spending cuts known as the sequester.
The airline associations argue that these delays might make it difficult to comply with the DOT tarmac delay rule, which comes with penalties for those who break it. 
If the rule stays in place, the motion says airlines “may be forced to cancel flights and significantly disrupt the travel plans of their passengers.”
Read more: business Insider
Safety Cuts Shameful To Passengers
Despite passengers paying high taxes to fund the FAA’s air traffic control system, the FAA has decided to cut back operational funding.
“Shame on the FAA for slamming passengers with safety-slashing and delay-causing cuts to the air traffic control system,” said Charlie Leocha, Director, Consumer Travel Alliance. “This is an unnecessary cut of services for which passengers pay each and every time they fly — we are not getting what we are paying for.”
Specifically, here are the user fees passengers pay:
  • 7.5 percent Excise Tax
  • 9/11 Security Fee = $2.50 per flight number to a maximum of $5 per one-way or $10 per roundtrip
  • Federal Segment Fee = $3.90 per takeoff or landing (maximum of $15.60)
  • Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) = up to $18
  • When traveling internationally, we have to pay additional user fees to take off and land, to have our passports checked and our luggage inspected for customs.
  • International Departure Tax = $17.20
  • International Arrival Tax = $17.20
  • Immigration user fee = $7
  • Customs user fee = $5.50
  • U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service fee = $5
Airline industry studies show that passengers are taxed at a higher federal rate than alcohol and tobacco. And now travelers aren’t getting what they are paying earmarked taxes and fees for.
* Since 1990, the number of aviation taxes/fees has increased from six to 17; the total amount of taxes paid by the industry has grown from $3.7 billion to $17 billion over the same period.
* The tax burden on a typical $300 round-trip ticket has nearly tripled since 1972, rising from $22 (7 percent) to $61 (20 percent).
* Annually, airlines and their customers contribute $10 billion to $12 billion to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund; general aviation contributes about $200 million.
* Airlines and their customers already incur $3.4B-$3.8B per year in federally imposed security taxes/fees.
* Also, the FAA’s budget has increased more than 100 percent over the last 15 years.
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) noted:
There are $2.7 billion in non-personnel Operations costs that should be examined before FAA personnel are furloughed.
Finding five percent in savings shouldn’t need to significantly impact our nation’s aviation operations. Businesses and families across the country face these issues in their budgets every day without massive impacts. We know that the FAA has the flexibility to reduce costs elsewhere, such as contracts, travel, supplies, and consultants, or to apply furloughs in a manner that better protects the most critical air traffic control facilities. 
Leocha urges the FAA to take another look at their cuts. “At least keep New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago airspace fully staffed, he notes. “When delays show up in those regions, the domino effect is dramatic across the country according to study after study.”
Read More: eTurboNews (eTN)
Traveling Public Part of Preventing Terrorism

The Boston attacks have jolted Americans into a state of alert.
Travelers and residents of major American cities are likely to be more aware of suspicious people and packages on city buses, subways, Amtrak trains, at the nation’s airports, and in public spaces.
Secure airports mean softer targets
Whatever the debate about carrying knives or liquids on airplanes, heightened security at the nation’s airports in the years since the 9/11 attacks may have shifted terrorists’ attention to softer targets.
“Once we secure a high-value target like aviation, terrorists don’t simply walk away,” says Rafi Ron, president of Virginia-based New Age Security Solutions and former head of security of Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. “They simply go for softer targets, public events like the Boston Marathon. It’s extremely difficult if not impossible to provide the same level of security we do at the airport at such an open public event.”
Security has been enhanced at transportation hubs “using measures both seen and unseen,” the Department of Homeland Security said last week. The agency is urging Americans to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
Airports are still targets
While checkpoints and multi-layered security make airports more difficult to breach, that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook.
Making an airport secure isn’t simply screening passengers before they enter an airport’s boarding area, said global aviation consultant Mike Boyd of Boyd Group International. Airport officials must ensure that everything on the premises is secure.
“How many security observation sweeps are made of the parking garage? Have the vulnerabilities of the air conditioning systems been reviewed? Trash cans — where are they located in regard to passenger flows? Are they blast-resistant? Is the catering facility across the field monitored? How about the fuel farm? How much scrutiny is given to the workers who are pouring concrete for that new taxiway?”
He also wants to know which law enforcement agency is in charge during an emergency and what the agency’s plans are to secure and evacuate sections of the airport in case of an incident. Does an airport terminal’s plan for evacuation simply send passengers outside, where they could be an easy target?
“Confusion is a terrorist’s best friend,” says Boyd.
Knives in Airplane Cabins?   

In the face of a huge backlash from flight attendants and the public, the TSA postponed its plan to allow knives on US flights.

But the 90,000-member Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which has opposed the TSA’s plan from the start, remains resolute: No Knives on Planes Ever Again.

Before TSA changes a rule it is legally required to issue a notice of rule-making, to allow all interested parties the opportunity to submit comments, and to fairly consider that input.

TSA did not comply with the rule-making requirements when it first announced its decision to allow knives on planes on March 5.

The Coalition is working diligently with members of Congress – Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) as well as Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — on legislation to permanently keep knives off planes. 

In the wake of the horrific Boston terrorist bombing last week, now is not the time to weaken security and let down our guard.

FAA Considers Restricting 787’s Lengthy Overwater Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing its approval for the Boeing 787 to fly up to three hours’ distance from the nearest airport, raising the possibility the jet’s routing may be constrained once the agency lifts the grounding of the Dreamliner fleet.
Such a restriction would further damage the plane’s reputation and prevent airlines from taking full advantage of the jet’s ultralong range on routes across the poles or vast tracts of ocean.
Some longer 787 flights, such as All Nippon Airways service between San Jose, Calif., and Tokyo, might have to use less direct routes that stick closer to continental coastlines and use more fuel.
The FAA is also reviewing the original ETOPS certification for the jet.  
ETOPS stands for Extended Twin-engine Operations, and is granted based on reliability of an airplane’s systems.
The 787 originally was awarded ETOPS certification to fly up to three hours from the nearest airport. The plane is designed to fly up to 9,400 miles nonstop.
Just before the battery problems emerged in January, Boeing had been expecting to have that certification extended to 5.5 hours.
It’s important for the viability of the 787, as a twin-engine jet, that it can fly long routes previously available only to four-engine airplanes.
Any restriction on the ETOPS approval would be a blow to Boeing, which made the jet’s long range and its ability to fly nonstop between almost any two cities on Earth a major selling point.
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