The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed changing its policies to allow airports to charge airlines higher fees for flights landing at peak travel times. The airlines and other interested parties have 45 days to comment on the proposal before any further action is taken.
According to Travel Weekly (registration required), government officials say higher fees for peak-time flights would help control airport congestion by encouraging the airlines to spread out their schedules. However, critics say the fees wouldn’t be high enough to discourage the airlines, but would hurt consumers, who would presumably pick up the tab in the form of higher ticket prices. Further, the Air Transport Association (ATA), a trade organization representing U.S. airlines, says the move is a cop-out, as the real solution to airport congestion is updating the country’s outdated air traffic control system. However, something that would require an act of Congress and cost an estimated $69 to $76 billion.
I agree with the ATA that the proposal is a bad idea. The government is basically buying time so it can delay the daunting and hugely expensive task of implementing a new air traffic control system. As usual, passengers will be the ones who pay the price, not only in the form of higher fares, but also in terms of safety, as the antiquated air traffic control system struggles to manage the increasingly congested skies.