Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and the federal government should review current procedures to avoid the kind of massive abrupt flight cancellations that left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded this April, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today.
FAA and American Airlines Report Recommendations
Citing lessons learned from reports submitted by the Federal Aviation Administration and American Airlines in response to last month’s grounding of hundreds of MD-80 aircraft, the Secretary called on the FAA and airlines to better ensure mutual understanding of what constitutes compliance with an Aviation Directive.
Secretary Peters added that the FAA and airlines need to review and improve procedures for understanding the process, timing and criteria for requesting and approving alternative solutions for safety directives, known as Alternate Means of Compliance.
The Secretary also said she is calling on airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to review existing protocols for communications to make sure that significant safety decisions are made using a clearly documented process.
“When situations of this magnitude evolve, it is critical that all parties have the right information so the right decisions can be made,” Secretary Peters noted.
She said the reports make clear that the FAA is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes a safety of flight issue and that safety deadlines must always be met on time. “It’s important to note that both American and the FAA agree when it comes to aviation safety, there are no soft deadlines.”
New Air Travel Consumer Protections
Secretary Peters also released new consumer protection measures designed to improve air travel nationwide and cut congestion, increase competition and reduce fares at New York’s JFK and Newark Airports. She said the Department would begin requiring airlines and travel agents to disclose fees for checking a second bag in their internet and print ads and before anyone purchases a ticket.
The Secretary also said that the Department today issued a final rule to require airlines to report new and more complete data on the time passengers spend on the tarmac. She noted that in the past airlines sometimes did not have to disclose how long aircraft were delayed after leaving the gate.
The new rule will require airlines to provide complete on-time and tarmac delay data about flights that may depart from a gate more than once, flights that are cancelled after having left the gate and flights that are diverted to another airport. “Passengers should know whether it will take as long for their flight to get to the runway as it will to land at their destination,” she added.
Cutting Delays, Improving Service, Reducing Fares in New York
The Secretary also announced three new measures designed to address severe delays at the three major New York area airports while preserving consumer choice, allowing for continued airline competition and keeping fares affordable.
She noted that the Department today posted the final order to temporarily cap flights at Newark Liberty Airport at an average of 83 scheduled flights per hour at the airport from June 1 until October 2009. However, she noted that while the measure will spread flight schedules more evenly throughout the day, it still will allow for an additional 30 operations per day than what was offered at the airport last summer.