The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Ahead of the holiday travel crunch, President Bush ordered steps Thursday to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left passengers stranded.
The White House said the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration would work to open unused military airspace to commercial flights. Officials said that would help reduce delays caused by weather and holiday congestion.
To keep the air travel system running at full capacity, the FAA also will ensure that air traffic facilities are well staffed to handle expected increases in flights; halt nonessential maintenance, construction and renovation at FAA facilities; and provide real-time passenger information , including delay reports , on the FAA Web site, the White House said.
Further, officials said the FAA would take other steps to increase efficiency such as rerouting airspace, using technology to fill unused space in the air and on the ground, and using more precise routes for takeoffs and landings.
The Department of Transportation will propose increasing the bump fee that airlines must pay to travelers who buy tickets but wind up without a seat. The department has been considering hiking the fee from $200 to more than $600.
Another proposed rule would deem the operation of a chronically delayed flight , defined as a flight that operates more than 15 minutes late more than 70 percent of the time , to be an “unfair and deceptive practice.” That designation carries with it substantial monetary penalties.
Bush was to announce the action at the White House with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Bobby Sturgell, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS