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2008 promises big penalties for late planes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Department of Transportation's (DOT) proposals to address the major problem of flight delays. Now, we're getting some specifics that I want to pass along.

Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters has announced a $25,000 fine for airlines that operate chronically late routes and don't do anything to improve on-time arrivals. Finally, the airlines will face consequences beyond the chore of ignoring all those angry passengers' complaints.

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Will the financial penalty inspire the airlines to change their ways in 2008? If someone were going to charge me $25,000 for being late, I'd permanently set my watch an hour fast. But when airlines do the math, I hope they don't find that it's cheaper to pay the fine than get the planes there on time. As we come to the end of a particularly memorable year of delays, it's good to see at least the possibility of improvement on the horizon.

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