For Immediate Release

March 22, 2005
Contact: Tony Molinaro
Phone: (847) 294-7427

Chicago – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today extended through October 29 a voluntary agreement with airlines to reduce flight delays at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The agency also proposed a federal rule on options to address congestion for three years, when additional airport capacity could be realized. The current voluntary agreement was set to expire April 30.

“Flight reductions at O’Hare have worked to cut delays but they are not our preferred approach,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. “We need to develop additional capacity so the market can be allowed to grow without the burden of government interference or the fear of airport gridlock,” Mineta added.

Both the extension and the proposed rule reflect the basic approach in the FAA’s August 2004 agreement, which capped at 88 the arrivals that could be scheduled per hour from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Since taking effect in November 2004, O’Hare’s on-time arrival performance has improved by 17% and overall delay minutes have been cut by 22% as compared to last year.

“For now, we’re going to stick with a formula that is saving air travelers countless time and money,” said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. “While we are working hard to add capacity throughout the system, we need to make sure in the interim that O’Hare schedules don’t exceed what the airport can handle.”

The FAA estimates that maintaining limits on the number of arrivals through April 2008 would result in a 42 percent reduction in delays at O’Hare and save airlines and passengers over $700 million lost through delays as compared to November 2003. The proposed rule is timed to expire as airport capacity improvements are expected to take hold.

Under the proposed rule, the FAA also will review every six months the level and length of delays and other operating conditions to determine if the airport can accommodate more arrivals. If additional capacity becomes available while the rule is in effect, the FAA proposes a method to assign the additional capacity scheduled to air carriers interested in initiating or expanding service at O’Hare.

The proposed rule will be open for comment for 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register and can be viewed at, docket number FAA-2005-20704.