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The Summer of Flight Delays?

The Chicago Tribune headline reads “Airlines Overpack for Summer.” Shouldn’t airlines know by now there’s a fee for that?

Alas, it turns out not to be a reference to an overstuffed suitcases, but to the packed flight schedules during peak times this summer at some of the nation’s busiest airports. Specifically, problems are predicted at Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, San Francisco International, and the three New York City-area airports.

What kind of congestion are we talking about? According to the article: “O’Hare’s carriers had scheduled an average of 77 arrivals and departures between 8 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on weekdays in June. That’s five planes landing or taking off per minute, and it’s nearly double the 42 aircraft operations scheduled during the same 15-minute span in June 2009.”

Airlines may not be subject to their own baggage fees, but this kind of over packing sounds like a recipe for the very tarmac delays recent (and future) legislation was meant to discourage. The DOT’s new rules require airlines to deplane passengers before tarmac delays reach three hours, or risk a $27,500-per-passenger fee.

Though the predominant airline response to the new rules so far has been to threaten flight cancellations, as opposed to addressing the actual issue, airlines now have at least two good reasons to seriously consider restructuring flight schedules. After all, at this point, they’re effectively creating the congestion that creates the tarmac delays.

Are you flying through a potential bottleneck airport this summer?

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