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Highlights

Since the unprecedented flight delays in 2000, a year in which one in four flights were delayed, our aviation system has been adversely affected by many unanticipated events--such as the September 11th terrorist attacks, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)--that significantly reduced the demand for air travel. However, demand for air travel is rebounding. For example, the number of passengers traveling by air increased from 642 million in 2003 to 688 million in 2004. Flight delays have been among the most vexing problems in the national transportation system and are defined by the Department of Transportation as instances when aircraft arrive at the gate 15 minutes or more after scheduled arrival time. In 2004, one in five flights were delayed primarily at New York La Guardia and Chicago O'Hare. Delays at these airports have consequences for the rest of the system. GAO's testimony addresses the following questions that pertain to flight delays and enhancing capacity: (1) What initiatives are ongoing by the federal government, airlines, and airports to address flight delays and enhance capacity? (2) What are some of the challenges in reducing flight delays and enhancing capacity? (3) What other options are available for reducing flight delays and enhancing capacity?

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