Bush vows action on long delays at airports
WASHINGTON - President Bush yesterday promised to take steps to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left travelers grounded.
"Endless hours sitting in an airplane on a runway with no communication between a pilot and the airport is just not right," he said.
Bush met with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and acting Federal Aviation Administrator Bobby Sturgell. He urged Congress to modernize the FAA, and instructed Peters to report back to him quickly about ways to make sure air passengers are treated appropriately and progress is made to ease congestion.
"We've got a problem," Bush said. "We understand there's a problem. And we're going to address the problem."
After the meeting, Peters said she is asking the airlines to meet to formulate a plan to improve scheduling at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, one of the busiest. If no solution is found, she said the department would issue a scheduling reduction order.
She said the agency is also improving the department's complaint system and is acting to increase compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from flights to more than $600, from $200.
Peters said all options are on the table, including forcing airlines to pay more to fly during peak travel periods. Airline executives told Congress that paying more wouldn't mitigate the record delays. That "will do nothing more than reduce service to small communities, reduce job growth, and raise fares for commercial passengers," Zane Rowe, senior vice president at Continental Airlines Inc., told a Senate panel.