For Immediate Release
November 30, 2011
Contact: Laura Brown
Phone: (202) 359-3680
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Department of Transportation officials and airport and airline operators today discussed a series of steps to improve critical information-sharing during severe weather to help guide better decision-making about flight diversions.
“We have the best aviation system in the world and we are committed to doing everything we can to help passengers reach their destinations safely and on-time,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “But we need to do more and we will.”
“It’s in the best interest of the flying public that we improve the way we share information so that during severe weather events, all of the many moving parts of our aviation system have the most updated and best information,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
A fast-moving, late October snow storm in the Northeast that led dozens of domestic and international flights headed for New York to divert to other airports prompted the unprecedented meeting.
During several hours of discussions at DOT headquarters, members of the aviation community and consumer advocates discussed five proposed FAA recommendations and suggested a number of ideas to help aviation stakeholders better understand the full context of flight diversion decisions. Separate discussion groups reviewed airport operations, airline operations and the customer experience, and then reconvened to share their observations.
The original recommendations included developing an airport information webpage, increasing participation of smaller airports in strategic planning teleconferences, creating special data tags for diverted flights on air traffic controller screens, better coordinating FAA equipment outages, and improving airport contingency plans.
The participants indicated that all of the recommendations, except the data tag suggestion, could help airlines, airports and air traffic controllers work collaboratively during diversion situations to accommodate flights as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Some participants suggested that regional hotlines like one currently used to manage significant weather events affecting the Texas area could be expanded to other regions for airports, airlines and controllers to more effectively manage diverted flights.
The FAA plans to refine the recommendations and then work with airline and airport operators to put them into effect as quickly as possible.