Your recent guest editorial (“Air traffic control reform is long overdue”) missed some key points about privatization of air traffic control.
Proponents of the privatization have promised the moon when it comes to privatization, but when you actually look at the causes of problems like airline delays, you find that the airlines themselves are responsible for most of them. The fact is that only the airlines, through more active management of their own “day-of” operations, can reduce the airline delays. For example, by implementing enroute airline business-based flow management, or Enroute BBFM and speeding up their aircraft so the first flight scheduled to land at 8 a.m. actually lands at 7:50 a.m., the second at 7:51, and so on, 10 aircraft due in at 8 a.m. can all still be on time.
Here is what privatization will do. First, it will provide airlines significantly more control over the ATC system by removing key Congressional oversight that ensures the system works to benefit the public. This would give airlines the power to direct limited ATC resources into only the hubs about which they care. But what airlines don’t realize, or maybe they do, is privatization would turn full “day of” control of the airlines primary production assets (aircraft) to the ATC system. In what business model is having a quasi-government agency run your daily production process a good thing?
This air traffic control privatization debate is unfortunately political gamesmanship at its worst; a side-show aimed at shifting attention from the epidemic of airline mismanagement that results in most of the travel woes that plague consumers when they travel. Let’s get real and start holding the airlines accountable for managing their own business just like every other industry, as opposed to handing them the keys to a $30 billion to $50 billion piece of our public infrastructure.
R. Michael Baiada,
president of ATH Group, a consultancy that works with airlines