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DOT pushes for flight reductions at O’Hare

DOT pushes for flight reductions at O’Hare

   Discussions will continue today between the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. airline officials about reducing peak schedules to relieve congestion and flight delays at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

   Wednesday’s meeting in Washington did not produce a voluntary agreement by all airlines for a long-term cutback at the airport. United Airlines and American Airlines, the two biggest U.S. carriers, earlier this year agreed to reduce their scheduled operations by 7.5 percent during peak travel times. That agreement expires Oct. 31.

   “We cannot permit O’Hare congestion to ground an economy and aviation system that are both roaring back,” Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a statement last week. “O’Hare’s on-time performance is unacceptable and has a substantial ripple effect on our nation’s aviation system. It is critical that all of O’Hare’s carriers set schedules that better match the airport’s current capacity.”

   Delays at O’Hare have reached all-time highs this summer. For the first half of the year there were 58,600 instances of delayed flights, more than the full-year totals for 2000, 2001 and 2002. The relative difference is due in large measure to the increase in air travel following a decline in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and a slow economy.

   O’Hare is a connecting hub for United and American and delays there affect the entire aviation system, the DOT said. From November to May, the nation’s other top 35 airports showed an increase of about 25 percent in average minutes of arrival delay per day. Unusually severe weather in some parts of the country has contributed to the increase in delays, but FAA computer models indicate delays at O’Hare are likely responsible for a significant portion of delays recorded nationally.