Air travel congestion gets worse as economy improves - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Air travel congestion gets worse as economy improves

WASHINGTON. - A report out Thursday warns of an air travel system in trouble.

Ten percent of all flights now arrive at least two hours late, that's double the rate from 1990.

Researchers say it's likely to get worse as the economy gets better.

"We do expect that once the economy recovers, that air traffic will pick back up again and congestion will return to where it was before, if not be worse," said Brookings Institution Transportation Research Analyst Adie Tomer.

Congestion, the report says, is not surprisingly a city problem.

The six worst cities for delays are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco.

One solution, say researchers would be to give travelers an option. Such as high-speed rail as an alternative to short flights that crowd the system.

"We found that the short-haul flights - less than 500 miles - make up about half of the flights in this country. We think that there could possibly be a rail alternative to that. It's not a silver bullet," said Tomer.

Airlines blame the FAA's air traffic control system for delays.

The planned switch from radar to satellites has hit snags in tests and is still several years away.

The Brookings Report agrees with those findings.

"We have an antiquated system right now that has long been recognized as something that needs robust investment," said Tomer.

Researchers say relief could come sooner by charging fees for rush-hour flights or privatizing airports.

Both proposals, the report says, would make air travel grow comfortably as the economy gains ground.

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