Springfield State Journal Register

January 22, 2004

American, United to cut O'Hare flights

By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - In an effort to reduce congestion and delays at O'Hare International Airport, American Airlines and United Airlines have agreed to reduce their flights at the Chicago airport during peak travel hours,

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Wednesday.
American and United, in negotiations with federal officials, have agreed to reduce flights at O'Hare by 5 percent between 1 and 8 p.m., the most congested time of day, Mineta said.

The current level of flight delays at O'Hare is unacceptable," Mineta said at a news conference here. "We had no choice but to call upon the airlines for relief in the interest of the flying public."

Earlier this month, his department released a study showing as many as seven of every 10 flights are arriving late at O'Hare during peak hours. O'Hare led the nation in delays for the first 11 months of 2003, the study found.

American and United control 88 percent of the 2,800 daily flights at O'Hare, federal officials said.

From March 4 to Sept. 1, the two airlines will eliminate 62 scheduled flights during peak hours, returning the scheduled flight operations at O'Hare to October levels, federal transportation officials said. American will provide 27 fewer flights, and United will schedule 35 fewer. The airlines could do that by shifting the flights to non-peak hours.

Air travel has only recently reached levels seen before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Both airlines increased their peak-period flights in recent months, causing a significant increase in delays, federal officials said. Without federal intervention, the congestion and delays were expected
to get worse in the busy summer months, they said.

"Delays cost time and money," Mineta said. "In fact, the economy loses billions of dollars to delays each year. That is unacceptable."
 
The terms of the agreement were included in an order signed by Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey and voluntarily accepted by the airlines. The department could require the scheduling changes if the airlines don't comply with the voluntary agreement, he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., praised Wednesday's announcement.

"These delays inconvenience passengers and affect take-offs and landings throughout the country," said Durbin, who asked the FAA earlier this month to waive antitrust regulations prohibiting the airlines from discussing flight schedules together. Instead, the FAA negotiated separately with the
airlines.

"The ultimate long-term solution is clear," Durbin said. "Only
infrastructure improvements - the modernization of O'Hare's runways - will prevent future gridlock and delays."