'It's a nightmare' for air travel - Delays this year are at record levels, and they may get worse
By Julie Johnsson |
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
August 7, 2007
Air travel is as bad as it's ever been. Passengers suffered through a record number of flight delays during the first half of 2007, federal data show.
And Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was certainly no picnic, having posted the worst on-time number in the nation for the first six months of the year.
Nearly one-quarter of all U.S. flights arrived late to their destinations, the industry's worst on-time performance since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began tracking such data in 1995.
"It's a nightmare," said aviation analyst Darryl Jenkins. "We're stretched. There's no give in the system if anything goes wrong."
The dismal results reflected the record number of commercial airline flights flown from January through June, about 3.7 million, as well as storms that wracked Chicago and other major airline hubs in February and June.
And the outlook for the months ahead is even worse, experts warn.
Anticipating a market slowdown, most major carriers are cutting domestic capacity, shifting larger planes to more lucrative overseas routes. They're turning to regional partners to pick up the slack on routes within the United States. But since they operate smaller planes, these partners will have to increase flights to keep pace with passenger demand.
"Less domestic capacity doesn't mean less flights; it often means more flights," said aviation consultant Robert Mann.
While O'Hare posted the worst on-time numbers for the six-month period, the three major airports in the New York area fared far worse in June. About half of the flights out of the area were delayed in June, compared with 31 percent of flights at O'Hare.
The culprits: air-traffic control constraints along the busy Atlantic seaboard and overscheduling at airports already operating at full capacity. "I avoid [flying through] New York like the plague. It's just a disaster there," Jenkins said.