April 15, 2024

Air Travel Delays Result of Reprehensible Conduct By White House and Congress

flight delaysThe growing disruption of airline flights in the U.S. is causing economic problems for an economy that does not need more problems, especially from a crisis manufactured by the President and Congress.  Pulling critical air traffic controllers off their screens and telling them to stay home will at some point jeopardize public safety. What will it take for Washington to regain some common sense and stop the nonsense – an airline tragedy?

Complaints about flight delays have been rapidly escalating as travelers are forced to waste millions of hours of precious time while congress and the president act like second graders.  Numerous news organizations and individuals have viewed with disgust the inability of our leaders to lead.

The Government Skies

Mr. Obama – How Stupid Do You Think We Are?

As travellers nationwide are learning, the White House has decided to express its dislike of the sequester—otherwise known as modestly smaller government—by choosing to cut basic air traffic control services. We wrote about this human- rights violation on Tuesday in “Flight Delays as Political Strategy,” but the story gets worse the closer we look.

Start with the Federal Aviation Administration, better known as the Postal Service without the modern technology. Flyers directly fund two-thirds of the FAA’s budget through 17 airline taxes and fees—about 20% of the cost of a $300 domestic ticket, up from 7% in the 1970s. Yet now the White House wants to make this agency that can’t deliver what passengers are supposedly paying for even more dysfunctional.

Ponder this logic, if that’s the right word: The sequester cuts about $637 million from the FAA, which is less than 4% of its $15.9 billion 2012 budget, and it limits the agency to what it spent in 2010. The White House decided to translate this 4% cut that it has the legal discretion to avoid into a 10% cut for air traffic controllers. Though controllers will be furloughed for one of every 10 working days, four of every 10 flights won’t arrive on time.

The White House could keep the controllers on duty simply by allocating more furlough days to these other non-essential workers.

Instead, the FAA is even imposing the controller furlough on every airport equally, not prioritizing among the largest and busiest airports.

But instead this White House is responding to the FAA’s failures by making the flying experience for millions of Americans even more unfriendly. It is actively creating even more delays, cancellations and missed connections in order to incite a public outcry on behalf of bigger government.

All of this deserves to backfire, and it will if Republicans break from their circular immigration firing squads and explain what Mr. Obama is doing. For all of its rough edges, the sequester is proving to be educational. It is showing Americans how broken so much of government is, and it is revealing how our politicians refuse to distinguish between essential services and needless waste.

Frequent traveler John Mauldin comments.

Two final thoughts. Given how much I travel it may be self-serving, but I find it inexcusable that the FAA would blame “sequestration” on the cutback in air-traffic controllers, etc. In a federal budget that large, they could find a few dollars to keep things rolling. That Congress would allow this without requiring prioritization funds is just one example – out of thousands – of the executive branch saying, “See, if you don’t give us money we will just inconvenience you,” all the while funding programs that we could well do without They might also take a look at cutting and rearranging budgets, as any normal business would do, to make sure that the important work for their customers gets done.

Bob Eisenbeis, Vice Chairman & Chief Monetary Economist at Cumberland Advisors  – call the White House to protest this outrage against the flying public.

Those of us who chose to travel yesterday experienced firsthand what can at best be called pseudo sequestration.  Our Cumberland staff alone experienced flight delays of from one to eight hours, all of which the airlines blamed on FAA budget cuts.  The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that delays and inconvenience were minimal, but tell that to the people who missed connections or didn’t get home until after midnight.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in all of 2013 about $42 billion in actual expenditures will be cut from government spending.  That is about one percent, but that doesn’t mean actual spending will be cut by one percent, it means that only increases in planned spending will be cut.  That amount isn’t even a rounding error when it comes to matching budget projection with actual spending. Examination of the FAA budget for 2013 shows that it had spending authority of over $15 billion and given that there was nearly a billion in planned infrastructure investments, cuts could have come from other areas within its budget than from the air traffic system.

It stretches credibility to think that such a small decrease in the overall in government spending could be so significant to the FAA, one of many, many government agencies, and that it would have this kind of impact on air travel unless there was a calculated effort on the part of the administration, which is charged with implementing sequestration, to inflict as much inconvenience and generate as much public reaction as possible in order to achieve its longer-term spending objectives.  It is not necessary to quote Abraham Lincoln in full here, but we “aren’t fooled.”

 One can’t help but be struck by the contrast between the competence of the Boston and Watertown police departments and what we see coming out of Washington, DC these days.  It appears that the public interest is being ignored for the sake of catering to special interests, whether that state of affairs is reflected in the inability to even limit assault rifles, in the crafting of an immigration bill packed with what amounts to special-interest earmarks, in the failure to agree on a national budget, or to face up to the fact that the country is on an unsustainable path when it comes to entitlements and spending.

 Those of you who experience flight delays because of the administration’s desire to play politics at our expense (not to mention the hit that will come to the bottom line of a struggling airline industry) are urged to contact your Senators, Congressmen, and the White House.  You can call the US Capitol at 202-224-3121. When the operator answers, ask for the office of your Senator or Congressman and leave a message. Also, there is a website for each Representative and Senator.  You can email them there.  To reach the White House dial 202-456-1111 and leave a message. To contact the White House via email, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments.

Response by Jet Blue totally inadequate

What is the reaction of the airlines to a situation which is hurting them as much as the flying public.?  I hope the reaction of Jet Blue is not typical of other airlines.  The following email to Jet Blue customers implies submissive acceptance when in fact they should be vociferously leading the protest against flight delays.

If you’re planning to travel, or know family and friends who are traveling, we’d like to inform you how the recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sequestration may affect your plans. Due to FAA furloughs, airport and flight delays are possible. While specific details have not been provided, we’ll do everything we can to keep you updated about this matter. As always, our focus will be running a safe and efficient operation for our customers.

Recommendations for travelers:

We regret any inconvenience you may experience.

Thank you for flying JetBlue – we look forward to seeing you onboard.

Dave Canty
Director, Loyalty Marketing & Partnerships, Jet Blue

This was my reply to Mr. Canty.

Dear Dave,
Instead of meekly accepting this outrageous situation and telling Jet Blue customers to man up and expect long lines, etc., why not lead the charge against this politically created nightmare?  Politicians are acting like children while the flying public’s safety and comfort is being put at risk.
The airlines should be leading the charge to resolve this situation and not just accept it.

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