Aircraft Delays at Major U.S. Airports Can Be Reduced

CED-79-102: Published: Sep 4, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 4, 1979.

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In 1977, aircraft delays caused U.S. airlines to use an additional 700 million gallons of fuel which is over 8 percent of their total consumption, detained travelers 600 million hours, and cost the airlines over $800 million.

The delays can be reduced if runway capacity at major airports is used more efficiently by shifting air traffic from peak to off-peak periods or to other airports. Another way to reduce delays is to charge peak operating fees instead of the existing landing fees which are based on aircraft weight. Quotas have succeeded in reducing delays by limitng the number of aircraft operations during congested periods. Under the Airport Development Aid Program (ADAP), reliever airports would be established to relieve congestion at major airports.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress passed the Airport Improvement Act (P.L. 97-248) and did not include the authority recommended by GAO.

    Matter: Congress should direct the Secretary of Transportation to decrease air traffic during congested periods at major U.S. airports. This could be accomplished by adding a new subsection to section 307 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as follows: "In the exercise of authority under subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the Secretary of Transportation is authorized and directed to implement procedures, including the imposition of reasonable charges, which will decrease air traffic in the airspace or at or in the vicinity of any airport at which the Secretary determines that such procedures are necessary to reduce congestion."

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should make privately owned reliever airports eligible for ADAP. This could be accomplished by amending: (1) section 14(a) of title 1 of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, 49 U.S.C. 1714a, to read "public-use" in lieu of "public" in the first sentence; and (2) the last sentence of section 15(a) of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, 49 U.S.C. 1715(a)(4) to read "$18,750,000 of the amount made available for fiscal year 1976, including such period, and $15,000,000 of the amount made available for each of the other fiscal years shall be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary to reliever airports including privately owned reliever airports."

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress passed the Airport Improvement Act (P.L. 97-248) and did not include the authority recommended by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should use peak surcharges and/or quotas to implement the new subsection to section 307 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The recommendation is being dropped because the DOT view that individual airport operators would have difficulty in assessing impact with respect to proposed improvements at other reliever airports in the hub appears reasonable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should develop a method which will enable reliever airport operators to determine to what extent their proposed improvements will help reduce congestion and delay at major airports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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